By Jade Moldae
If you signed onto social media in the days surrounding Jan. 1, 2019 (or perhaps through conversations with customers in your store) you likely read, heard or even uttered yourself — “New year, new me.” This refrain encapsulates our desire for a fresh start, with the new year providing a natural reflection point and an impetus to try new things.
For the industry, a new year brings fresh opportunities. There are potential customers and would-be enthusiasts who will be more “open” to an introduction to the shooting sports, looking to reengage in a favorite activity or learn more about self-defense and concealed-carry techniques. Dealers able to capitalize on these early-year decisions will be set up for success in the new year.
Here are three segments dealers say are primed for growth in 2019.
1. Firearm Rentals
At facilities with a range, rental guns represent a chief candidate to experience an influx in 2019. Last month, Shot Spot (Carrollton, Ga.) National Sales Manager Chase Chambers predicted the indoor shooting business is set to grow “tremendously” this year.
“We’ve talked to other dealers who plan to expand their rental fleet of guns because they’re anticipating more people are going to want to come indoors and shoot,” he lends. “Sales of firearms may not grow as much as the range business in the next 12 months.”
In a similar vein, a rental program facilitates the “try before you buy” approach.
“It keeps us alive,” said John Harvey, owner of Oak Ridge Gun Range in Orlando, Fla., on his store’s range rental program — which often leads to sales.
Larry Davis, president of Connected Data Solutions, cautioned against relying too heavily on rental guns. He does, however, confirm how their role influences the bottom line.
“Looking at sales of rental guns during 2018, at first glance one could say, ‘yes, there is an increase.’ However, compared to handguns — which also increased in sales volume during 2018 — the percentage of rental sales to handgun sales remained consistent at around 8 percent throughout the year. This confirms rentals largely serve the purpose of ‘try before you buy’ rather than being a significant source of revenue in their own right,” he said.
If you have the asset of an indoor or outdoor shooting facility, some early-year promotions to educate customers on the existence of a local rental program (or steps to expand your rental fleet) would be a worthwhile endeavor.
Whether as an add-on to a firearms sale or a standalone transaction, accessories have an impact on a dealer’s bottom line. Innovation remains a key sales driver today, attracting interest from customers.
“We saw a lot of innovation in 2018 and there is opportunity for proprietary accessories — the SIG P365 being a prime example,” shared Jason Gentz, manager of Arnzen Arms in Grand Prairie, Minn.
With the millions of firearms sold in the last few years, you can count on customers looking to enhance or upgrade their current cache with accessories.
“They may not want to buy a gun, but they still want to do modifications,” said Adam Bryce, owner of GunRunner Arms in Junction City, Ore. “I see a lot of people working with what they have because they’ve already bought.”
3. Special Orders
Special orders have emerged as a leading contender for dealers to immediately satiate a customer’s desire to purchase products not carried in-store.
Jacquelyn Clark, owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo., shared the recent success of adding an e-commerce solution for her store last summer. In addition to creating what she calls “a brand new revenue stream” the system has also streamlined a previously lengthy in-store process.
“In the past, customers would fill out a ‘price and availability’ request with our retail staff if they wanted to order something we don’t normally stock,” Clark said. “Our buyer would then research the requests and call the customers back — sometimes a day or two later — and many of them would have already found their item online elsewhere. Now, our associates can easily see the price and the availability of the item right then and there. The customer places the order and pays through our website in the store on the same visit. We now capitalize on a much higher volume of special orders.”
Since implementing this tool, Clark relayed her store’s special orders have jumped significantly (increasing by 277%) since 2017.
“It’s easier on our staff and for our customers — it’s a no-brainer,” she said.
Creating more opportunities for sales is always a good thing — which is why adding a special order function merits a second look.
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