To Make Your Store More Appealing To Women
By Ashley McGee
Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their impact continues to grow year over year. Between their personal buying power and influence, women drive 70–80 percent of all consumer purchasing.
This is especially important for historically male-dominated industries such as firearms and sporting goods because even when a woman is not making a purchase herself, she has an influence on the purchasing decisions of others.
The impact of female consumers is further multiplied when you consider women often shop for their spouse, kids, other family members and friends. The growth opportunity associated with women is undeniable, and capturing a share of this segment isn’t as complicated as you might think.
It’s easy to get caught up in what big-box or online retailers are doing, so try to focus on what you can control — the area in and around your four walls. Here are five simple tips to make your store more appealing to women:
1. Rethink Your Store Layout
If your store doesn’t already have a dedicated women’s section, it may be time to consider one. If it does, give some thought to its location.
At Stage Stop Gun Shop and Indoor Range in Atwater, Calif., the women’s section features a selection of clothing, jewelry and concealed carry purses, and makes up about one-quarter of the store’s total square footage. It’s strategically located directly across from the gun counter and toward the restrooms.
“This location is great because even if women aren’t coming in on their own, the area attracts their attention while they might be waiting on the person they’re with to browse or make their selection at the gun counter,” relayed Jessica Regalado, sales manager of the store’s Atwater location.
If you carry youth items, consider placing these sections next to one another. “We positioned our ladies’ department just before the kids’ section,” informed Luke Guest, vice president of Hunters’ Hollow in Oxford, Miss. “We figure a lot of mothers bring their kids shopping and may not realize what we have for them unless they see it.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid Of “DIY”
As a woman working in the firearms industry, Jessica Regalado is able to draw from personal experience to help make decisions about what inventory to stock. However, she admits one of the biggest challenges comes from the fact women are still underrepresented in the marketing and promotional materials created by manufacturers.
Advocate for your female customers by requesting these materials. Manufacturers can’t fill this need if they’re unaware of the demand. Until they catch on, don’t be afraid to take marketing into your own hands.
Consider working with a local photographer, graphic designer and printer to produce posters, flyers and other signage featuring women. This will make your store more inclusive and welcoming.
3. Hire Employees Reflective Of the Audience You’re Trying to Attract
Just as you want marketing materials to be reflective of the audience you’re trying to attract, it’s important to consider the team you hire. Walking into a store with a good ol’ boys vibe can be off-putting.
This doesn’t mean hire women just for the sake of hiring women. There are many women who possess the knowledge and experience to work behind the gun counter, as a range instructor or safety officer or as part of the office support staff. You may have to network and seek them out to let them know those opportunities exist. Don’t sit back and wait for them to come to you.
The same can be true with regard to age.
“We’re a small team with just a couple of people to help my partner and me,” said Ryan Resch, co-owner of Bighorn Firearms in Denver. “Though we don’t currently have any women on staff, I think the fact we’re both in our 30s has helped us appear more approachable and relatable to both female and younger demographics.”
The majority of Bighorn’s customers are under the age of 35. Though women only make up 5–10 percent of their customers, Resch noted this is a number they’ve seen continue to grow since opening a little over 6 years ago. Of those, he said there has been a noticeable trend with more women coming in on their own rather than accompanying someone else.
4. Show, Don’t Tell
Online sales continue to grow significantly, threatening the future of brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes. But despite their convenience, there’s one thing online retailers can’t deliver: A tactile experience. The majority of American consumers — women in particular — value the ability to see, touch and feel products.
Have a variety of holsters and concealed carry products available to try so she can find what best fits her frame. Invest in female mannequins to display women’s apparel and have fitting rooms so she can try on clothes.
Don’t tell her how easy a firearm is to load, how little recoil it has or the barrel was designed with her arm length in mind. Give her the opportunity to experience these features firsthand.
The opportunity to “try it before you buy it” can help women feel more confident about their purchasing decision and reduce returns and exchanges stemming from buyers’ remorse.
For women who may only be visiting your store to purchase on behalf of someone else, display products to give them context and to help imagine the possibilities. Instead of having her try to visualize the size difference between a single or double pop-up hunting blind, have them set up.
Home improvement stores follow this same concept. They often display patio furniture sets with pillows and rugs, or unfinished building materials assembled into custom closet shelving displays.
She may not know the first thing about hunting, but she’ll easily be able to see the double blind would be perfect for her child’s first trip with an experienced family member. It’s about creating a narrative.
5. Host In-Store Events
According to the National Retail Federation, offering exclusive previews and events, product demonstrations and brand experts are great ways to leverage tactile buying behavior and make a store more appealing to female customers.
For Hunters’ Hollow, this includes hosting the North Mississippi Chapter of The Well Armed Woman — a non-profit organization with 372 chapters in 49 states dedicated to educating, equipping and empowering women shooters. (We shared tips on how to work with one women’s shooting organizations in the March issue. Find it here: www.shootingindustry.com/tips-for-working-with-womens-shooting-organizations.)
At Stage Stop Gun Shop and Indoor Range, Jessica Regalado is a certified shooting instructor in addition to her role as sales manager, allowing the business to offer women-only beginner shooter classes. But, you don’t need a range to host events.
Other ideas include educational seminars on subjects like firearms safety for moms, non-lethal personal protection alternatives or an after-hours girls’ night out shopping event where female brand representatives or local female small business owners are invited to display products. The possibilities are endless, so get creative.
In many cases, women are the gatekeepers to household and discretionary spending. In order to make your store more appealing to women, first understand they generally don’t shop or buy the same way as men.
You can make simple changes to your store layout, have female representation in marketing and strive for a gender-balanced team that reflects your desired customer base. Both men and women will benefit from increased opportunities to try various products before buying them, but hosting exclusive in-store events is an engaging way to show women you are committed to serving them.
Many of these tips require a minimal financial investment, but the return on investment is worth it. Brand loyalty almost always follows the dominant woman in the household giving you the opportunity to capture customers for generations to come.
Ashley McGee is a writer and marketing consultant specializing in editorial and advertorial articles, content marketing and social media management.