From the perspective of a small gun dealer in America, there are many questions about what we are going to do, and will not do, in preparing for our future.
One of the first things we must do is stop blaming others for our failures and mistakes. Everyone wants to blame the government, the manufacturer, the distributor, competition -- everyone else. It's time for us to quit the excuse-making and start taking responsibility for our own decisions and develop a plan for success -- for ourselves and the industry.
There are many very positive things we, the small, independent dealer, can do to help our industry through these troubled times. We are no different than the dealers of old who had problems. They just had a different attitude.
"Oh, sure," someone is saying, "but the old timers didn't have the gun-control problems we have today or the competition of the mass merchandisers." True. However, they did have other problems, plus discounters and strong competition, and they successfully handled them. They did positive things to overcome these problems.
We need to quit fighting amongst ourselves, so we can become the force we should be. Eight years ago, a couple of dealers in San Antonio tried to develop an dealer organization to deal with future problems. No one wanted to listen. Instead, the dealers blamed each other. Five years ago, we tried again to develop a dealer program, but, the "big boys" wouldn't get in with the "little boys."
We must learn to work together as a team or we will never make it as an industry. Our enemy loves to watch us blame each other.
We say we're trying to organize, but no one is leading. We need someone who has the desire, stamina, foresight, knowledge and support of everyone in the industry. Is there someone out there who believes they can lead us? If so, please step forward.
Next, we must get our message to our political leaders. We must get to know our local politicians and support those who are on our side. Better yet, some of us could run for local office. How about running for the school board? If we continue to let the enemy control our schools, we will not have a future. At the least, we need to be involved financially and keep our customers informed of those politicians who support our industry.
BECOME THE EXPERT
We need to become the experts for the news media in our city, state and industry. Too many times, the news media interviews an "expert" who is on the anti-gun side. The person is always smartly dressed and speaks with composure. Then, if the media interviews someone that is pro-gun, the person is usually sloppily dressed and appears to be looking for a fight.
At our gunshop, we have worked very hard to be available to the news media. They now come to our store whenever something happens, whether it be local, state or national. We treat the news media with respect and courtesy - the same as we want to be treated -- and they do the same with us. Sure, they edit what we say and sometimes we get mis-quoted, but not nearly as much as we used to, because the news media now sees us as experts.
Dress neatly at all times. You never know when the media may come to your store for a comment. Also, speak only on what you know, not on what you think you know. There is an old saying: "It is better that someone thinks you are a fool, than to open your mouth and let everyone know it."
The same is true, not only with the media, but also with our customers. Customers are going to shop where they can get the answers to their questions. If you don't appear to be the expert in your industry, the customer will go somewhere else.
DO BUSINESS BETTER
Find your niche in your market. If you have a mega store in your area, don't try to compete with it. We've had seven mega chains enter our market in the last five years. Four of them put themselves out of business and one is no longer selling weapons. We won the battle of the "big boys," not by trying to match their prices, but by concentrating on giving good service.
Gunsmithing service has always been a strong backbone of our business. If you have a good gunsmith on location, it will always be a plus.
Know your product. If you have knowledgeable people on the floor, customers will come to you for advice. Yes, we get frustrated when someone comes to us for advice and then buys somewhere else. But, in the long run, people like to shop where they feel wanted. That's what we strive to do.
We also go the extra mile for our customers. We have worked out programs with some of our suppliers that have been an absolute blessing to everyone involved: the manufacturer, our customer and our store. Simply by sharing the needs of our customers, many manufacturers have worked out special programs for us.
Know your competition. We know when a mega store is selling an item at cost or below cost, so we don't over-supply the product. Instead of getting angry, we wait until they run out of product and then sell what we have. We also special order whatever the customer needs.
We know the businesses that don't buy used guns or take back firearms. Those customers come to us. If we do not have what a customer wants, we send them to a good competitor. In turn, our competition calls us when they are out of something. Our customers appreciate what we do.
To be ready for the millennium it's important to learn how to use the Internet. It is said that by 2005 over 5 percent of all retail purchases are going to be over the World Wide Web.
Another way to cut costs is to pool our advertising dollars. In Puerto Rico, small pharmaceutical stores pool their advertising dollars so they can compete with the large advertisements of major chains.
It is critical to our businesses to vote for local, state and federal government offices. Support those who support our cause. Support the person who is of honest character, who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk. Let people know what you stand for.
I hope that we can all come together in one accord and convey the message that we can be successful in the coming year and survive the attacks of our enemies. We can overcome all things through prayer, persistence, knowledge, hard work and a positive attitude.
Ron Farington did not believe guns were necessary before he met his future wife, Leslie Carter, who hod owned Don's Gun Sales Inc. in Son Antonio, Texas, for 30 years. Through Leslie, he "soon learned how wrong had been taught."
He began working in Don's Gun Sales in 1990. He is now the general manager. The shop does between $750,000 to $2 million per year.
Before joining the firearms industry, he worked for 17 years for a Fortune 500 company in the automotive industry. He began as a field representative, working his way up the corporate ladder to regional sales manager.
He and Leslie have been married for nine years and have three children.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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