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Take a look around: lessons from other stores can be put to work for you.

Believe it or not, there's a strategy to selling accessories. Too many gun dealers simply place their accessory items on a shelf or rack and let them sell themselves -- then wonder why they don't pull their own weight.

With so many accessories on the market, and so many different customers in your store, the strategy you use for marketing your "add-on" items can be one of the main factors in determining whether your store makes a profit. Here are five time-honored sales tips used in other retail industries which you can put to work in your gun store today to boost your sales tomorrow.

Increase Customer Traffic

Here's a two-question quiz (don't worry, you won't need a pencil): Where are your "staple items," the things that most of the customers that walk through your door are going to buy? Probably right up front by the entrance. Okay, now, why do you keep them there?

If the items in your store with the highest rate of turnover -- ammo, reloading components, or cleaning supplies -- are stocked on a flat or shelf right by the front door, your answer to the last question is probably, "convenience." You don't want your customers to have to hunt through your whole store to find the one thing they're looking for, do you?

Actually, you just might.

Next time you're in the grocery store, examine the floor plan. The items which most people are going to buy when they walk into the store, like milk, butter, eggs, meat, and bread, are probably stocked along the back wall. (Incidently, these are the items which grocery stores mark up about 5 percent over cost -- very little profit.)

Between the front door and these "staple items" are rows and rows of more attractive goods -- frozen pizzas, potato chips, soda, cookies, etc. -- which customers must walk past in order to get to the staples. Are you beginning to get the picture?

Next time you're re-arranging things in your store, stand at the front door and think like a customer. What do you see when you walk in? Does it make you want to come further in, or are you inclined to stay at the front of the store? When you make your weekly trip to the gun shop for some ammo are you drawn past the "goody" sections with the clothing, scopes, cases, and other high profit items? If so, your customers will be too, and they'll wind up buying more often.

Upgrade Sales

One of the best methods to get people into your store is to have a sale and advertise your lowest priced items in the newspaper, on the radio, and anywhere else you can reach your customers; but if that was all there was to it, every gun store owner would be rich.

The most common complaint about specials is, "My customers only come in to buy the advertised items, and I'm selling those at my cost. I can't make any money!"

Browse through your next Sunday paper until you find an ad for your local auto parts shop. Like most auto parts stores, its probably got motor oil on special for about 50 cents a quart every week of the year -- a price so low you can be certain they're taking a loss.

When you go into the store, you find that low-priced oil stacked in a gigantic pyramid with a bright "Sale" sign on top. The oil is packaged in tin cans with a generic label that says "10W-30 Oil." Next to this is an equally large display of a major brand name oil in resealable plastic bottles with bright colors and a rebate coupon on the back.

The brand name oil isn't always on sale, and if it is, its sale price is still higher than the generic oil, but a lot of shoppers will decide to purchase the higher-priced, higher-quality product when the two are compared side by side.

Likewise, you probably have some extremely low-priced items that you can advertise, then invite your customers to "comparison shop." Order a large quantity of plastic gun cases that you can advertise for $4.99, then place them next to a display of quality gun cases selling for $19.99. Sure, some customers will buy the cheap case, but a surprising number will see that the inferior quality case won't protect their expensive firearms as they would like, and they'll opt to buy the better quality product instead.

Loss Leaders

Believe it or not, you can actually make a profit by losing money on certain items -- you just have to be very careful about how you do it!

Just about every spring the home improvement stores run advertisements for patio-grade redwood planks at incredibly low prices, and even offer custom deck design assistance and free delivery of materials. Most customers wonder how they can sell such nice material at rock-bottom prices -- but they usually don't wonder for any longer than it takes them to place their order for hundreds of board feet of lumber.

What these customers don't think about is the fact that building a deck requires much more than wood, and that's where the store makes its money. While their "expert deck consultants" are helping the customers design their custom decks, they're also selling. "Now, along with your redwood, you will need 20 pounds of nails, some weatherproofing stain, concrete pilings, screws -- you do have a hammer, power saw, screwdriver, and tape measure, don't you? And would you like a new gas barbecue to put on your deck? ..."

Don't be afraid to advertise an item at a loss to lead customers into the store, but when you do, make sure that all the profitable items that go with it are in stock and available to the customers. When you have your annual handgun sale, order extra ammo, cleaning kits, targets, manufacturers' T-shirts, and anything else your customers will want to go with their new firearm.

Layout Rotation

Your loyal customers feel comfortable in your store, they know where every item is located, and they could find their particular brand of ammo with their eyes closed. Is anything wrong with that?

Womens' fashion stores make an incredible profit, and it's a cliche that men don't like to go shopping for clothes with their wives. Why? Of course, as any man knows, a woman can't just go into a clothes store and buy the one item she needs; she has to look through every item in the store.

All kidding and stereotypes aside, it does seem that when a customer walks into a clothing boutique, they want to wander through the whole store -- and that's no accident. Clothing stores change the floor layout frequently, moving racks and display tables to make it seem like every time the customer comes in, he or she is entering a brand new store. Of course, when a customer comes into a new store, they want to look at all the merchandise. One chain of designer clothing stores, located in malls across the country, has taken this strategy to its logical conclusion and changes their floor plan every single day.

Shifting your inventory every day would be a back-breaking task, but how long has your store been the same? You should probably make some kind of significant change to the layout of your store every four to six months. Put the ammo where the targets are, change the orientation of the aisles from north/south to east/west, or alter your pistol and long gun display. Sure, your regular customers may have to ask where to find their favorite ammo, but personal contact is the first step on the way to a sale.

Appropriate Price Placement

What's on the ends of your aisles? Are there special promotional items or is it just a continuation of the regular stock on the aisle? Or worse, do you have no display space on the ends of your aisles at all?

When a book publisher promotes the latest best-selling horror novel, you can bet that if you go into a bookstore, you'll find a whole four-foot endcap devoted entirely to that title. It there is anything else on the display, it will be a few other books written by the same author, and probably a cardboard display header to catch customers' attention.

Don't waste prime promotion space with merchandise that belongs in your regular stock. Pay attention to manufacturers' promotions and take advantage of special pricing, promotional deals (rebate coupons or giveaways), and seasonal specials. Make the best use of the space you have available -- the more limited it is, the more carefully you must merchandise every square inch.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:gun stores
Author:Farrell, Scott
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Holsters: your number 1 add-on sale.
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