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Sievert's Gun Shop: a profile in excellence.

You can still make it "big" as a small independent gun dealer despite the encroachment of chains and discount stores. For instance, Fred Sievert's small 1,200 square foot shop grossed nearly $2,000,000 in business last year, and he's been eminently successful in the same off-the-road location for twenty-one years! There are scores of independent gun dealer success stories, but Sievert's Gun Shop epitomizes the genius that underlies such successes.

Fred Sievert's Gun Shop, resting on the southwest edge of Pueblo, Colorado, is deceptively small by appearances. This rectangular fortress-ike building, complete with a replicated cannon out front and the Confederate stars and bars atop, figuratively shouts "welcome" to everyone. Once you enter the door of this family operated shop, all impressions of smallness vanish.

Literally, every square foot of the 30' by 40' store is loaded with firearms. In fact, Fred is fond of claiming the largest firearms inventory in the eight Rocky Mountain states. The story behind this remarkable independent deserves the attention of any firearms retailer who hopes to increase his market share and profits. Fred's success is known throughout the Rocky Mountain region by customers and competitors alike. Just what is the genius behind this success? Here's what I've found through several years of observation:

Friendly Professional

First and foremost, Sievert's shop has a very friendly, yet professional atmosphere. Fred and his gregarious wife Madeline have created a climate where gun enthusiast experts and neophytes are both made to feel comfortable. Each customer is, of course, treated with individualized attention to include the most current technical advice. Fred and Madeline, along with family members Marcel and Dawn Singleton, and Bill Grasmick never met a stranger. Each customer, whether a noted big game hunter or neighborhood boy who's "just looking", is special in Sievert's shop. As a customer, you get the distinct feeling that you've just stepped out of rush hour traffic and into a 19th Century respite complete with all the friendliness, homespun wisdom, and sagacity you would expect from that era.

Top Quality Products and Services

Secondly, Fred insists upon selling only top quality products and providing the best possible service. Much of his twenty-one years of success is attributed to this penchant for top-rated products. "I don't handle any junk," he states proudly and unequivocally. If a product isn't proven and isn't guaranteed by its manufacturer, it will never get through the shop doors. "Service and top-of-the-line merchandise is how we compete with the discounts. In fact, two area discount store managers regularly buy their weapons from me!," Fred responded to a question about market share. The shop boast a display inventory of 5,000 firearms and another 1,400 to 1,600 in back-up storage.

A quick surveillance of the inventory by even a casual observer will provide enough evidence that Sievert's shop is truly special. The rows upon rows of rifles, shotguns, and handguns are astonishing. His display of vintage"round-lock" .22 rifles is as impressive as his outstanding collection of the latest model handguns. Without question, this shop is in only one business - the gun business. Fred and Madeline have successfully resisted the temptation to expand into other sporting goods areas. "We're strictly a specialty shop," Fred will tell you. "We deal in guns and gun-related items only." Aside from the dazzling exhibition of firearms, a plethora of gun accessories and a wide variety of assorted ammunition choices are presented throughout the store.

A full gunsmithing service is available and his technicians are recognized specialists in fine tuning trigger mechanisms down to an ounce of pull or less. "We can custom-tune the trigger pull on any firearm, even those the factories say can't be adjusted," Fred often tells his customers. Sievert's shop also has an outdoor shooting range for his more discriminating customers or for those customers who are new to shooting. This personalized activity (Fred offers first-hand instruction whenever needed) is most appreciated by his customers. "Safety First" is a standard they live by at Sievert's.

A Standard Above Most Shops

The above description of the atmosphere, products, and services of Sievert's shop might well be replicated in hundreds of independent shops, maybe even at an occasional chain or discount shop. To really determine what sets Fred's shop apart from most others, I had to mentally compare my own experiences in Fred's shop to those in the scores of shops and stores that have had my business as an avid outdoorsman and outdoor writer for twenty-five years.

In the past five or six years, my wife and I have purchased two firearms and much ammunition at Sievert's. More importantly, I have had several firearms worked on successfully by their gunsmiths. Our first purchase of a firearm, however, will best describe that special element which is so difficult to capture in words. The transaction went like this:

"Hey everybody - look who's here, it's the good doctor and his lady," Fred belched. (Fred has two volumes, loud and loudest.)

Come over here and let me catch up on what you've been up to." (He really means it. It's just too bad if you're in a hurry.) After discussing our work, boy scouts, vacations and the like, he asked how he could help us.

"A handgun for Beth? You mean she doesn't already have one?" he asked incredulously. Without missing a beat, he had us across the room looking into a glass display case at scores of handguns.

"Now don't even think of getting her one of these macho cannons. I assume you want a comfortable, easy-to-use weapon for self defense at home?"

"How did you guess?" I wondered.

"I didn't, but if she doesn't already have one, that's what she needs to get first," he replied. "Why just last Thursday, a dear lady over here on Pueblo Boulevard would have been raped and probably dead if I hadn't sold her a .38 some time back." (Beth and I recalled the incident from a recent newspaper story.) Within seconds, Fred had five or six weapons laying on top of the case for inspection.

"Try this .38 Beth." He checked the cylinder on the double action short-barrel and handed it to her to check the fit. "Nope," he interjected,"the handle's much too big for that delicate hand."

"Maybe that small one there,"I suggested.

"Nope, that's only a .25 caliber. Our object is to get something that will protect her. We'll need at least a.32 long or a.38."

During the next ten minutes he handed her a half-dozen handguns which suited him. What's more, he explained the advantages and disadvantages of each weapon and told us why he was selecting only "certain" guns for her to try out for fit.

"No autos - double actions are the easiest to use and the most reliable. You don't need this matched and balanced target pistol, but you don't want an inexpensive pea shooter either," he explained. "Ahh, that looks like it." Fred leaned over the case to inspect the fit of a small .32 long. "How's it feel?"

The next thing I knew, we could hardly wait to shell out the $160 or so for Beth's security.

"That's the best insurance policy you'll ever get," he beamed with a characteristic ear-to-ear smile.

After the sale and the paperwork was finished, Fred ushered us over to the ammunition case and again offered his advice. He then suggested that we head to the firing range so Beth could become familiar with her first handgun. Sometime in between, he made sure we belonged to the N.R.A.

The next day, I was on an airplane to some far-away state with Fred's voice still permeating my conscious and with an unaccustomed sense of security for my wife and young son.

Sievert's Success Formula

An analysis of this first handgun purchase from Fred reveals the secret to his entrepreneurial genius. Indeed, I offer it here for inspection and possible replication of all gun shop proprietors:

1. Friend-raise first.

2. Help the customer focus on his/her need.

3. Make intelligent suggestions based on that need.

4. Engage the customer's senses with the product.

5. Close the sale.

6. Take pride in helping the customer meet his/her need.

Now I doubt that Fred has ever deliberately listed this specific marketing sequence to be followed as a sales procedure in his shop. In fact, I am convinced that this sales technique comes intuitively to Fred, as it does also to Madeline. That's why it's so effective.

It's the sincerity and the genuineness of

his personality that has made him so successful. Indeed, his loud voice is alarming and his language is sometimes borderline. But if you sift through the chaff, Fred Sievert's genius is the simplest of them all; he truly loves people and cares about meeting their needs. It's this quality that is contagious and is pervasive with all of his employees.

"Life is great and full of fun," Fred declares often. "And people are wonderful. That's why I'm in this business. I'm not here to sell guns, I'm here to meet people's needs in the best way I can.

You can take it from me - he means it!
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Author:Zeiss, Tony
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Previous Article:Firearm production by U.S. manufacturers, 1973-1989.
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