By Ashley McGee
Whether offered monthly or weekly, ladies’ nights (or days) have become a commonplace offering at gun ranges throughout the country. So much so women have come to expect them as a standard offering. It’s time to step it up a notch and get more creative if you want to set yourself apart in the eyes of female consumers. Get your wheels turning with these out-of-the-box alternatives to the traditional ladies’ night at the range:
Femme Fatale Arms in West Melbourne, Fla., doesn’t have a range at its retail location, but what they’re doing must be effective because Owner Maria Dockery said women make up around 80% of their customer base. (To give some perspective, most dealers I’ve spoken to over the past few years for Shooting Industry have estimated a range of 10–30%.)
While gun dealers obviously want to
increase firearm sales, you’d be doing a disservice
to not think beyond firearms when it comes to
marketing your store to women.
Instead of hosting weekly or monthly ladies’ night events like those with onsite ranges, Femme Fatale has partnered with local law enforcement to host a larger-scale event at their training range. In doing so, the Femme Fatale team has more time for long-term planning, preparation and promotion.
This year, they plan to host their second annual Annie Oakley Festival — a ladies’ day at the range where women (and men) can explore and learn about different types of shooting sports and activities.
“Men are always welcome at every single thing we do, but we’re female-focused,” Dockery relayed.
1. Plan A Festival.
Femme Fatale Arms chose to cap last year’s event attendance by pre-selling 200 tickets.
“We really wanted to preserve the quality of the experience,” she added.
The event drew attendees from throughout Brevard County and surrounding counties who were able to try a variety of guns including an M4 and MP5 machine gun.
However, the most popular activity was the shoot-house experience. Armed with an airsoft gun and tactical gear, participants had the opportunity to clear an actual law enforcement shoot house alongside members of the local SWAT team.
Based on last year’s sellout, Femme Fatale plans to make additional tickets available in 2020.
All of the activities during the Annie Oakley Festival benefitted the Palm Bay Police Department Victim Advocacy Program, SWAT and Police Explorers Program.
2. Create Unique Experiences.
It’s no secret women shop differently than men. If you want to attract more female consumers, focus on creating unique experiences they cannot get anywhere else.
When the last “James Bond” movie was released, Centerfire Shooting Sports in Kansas City hosted an “Are You the Next Bond Girl?” event complete with a red carpet.
For Valentine’s Day, they offered a sweetheart package marketed as a “couples therapy experience.” It included a rose, chocolates and a gift for two. The promotion was a seasonal twist on their regular date-night promotion and the shooting experiences Centerfire introduced last year.
Year-round they offer two experiences geared toward women. The Ladies’ Only Experience is designed for those interested in gaining more confidence or interested in picking up a firearm for the first time. The package includes one-on-one range instruction,
one-hour lane rental, three firearm rentals, ammunition, a target and ear and eye protection for a flat price ($89.95). The rentals are pre-selected and include a .22 LR revolver, .22 LR suppressed pistol and a 9mm pistol.
While this sounds similar to a traditional ladies’ night, this experience and the others offered can be reserved in advance online for any day of the week that has range availability — which also helps ensure sufficient staffing levels. But the biggest draw is it eliminates the need for a woman to stand at the gun counter and choose from an entire selection of firearms.
“For a first-time or beginner shooter, it can be overwhelming to pick out what you’re going to shoot,” said Jean Basore, co-owner of Centerfire Shooting Sports. “This also helps women try different types of handguns they might not have selected otherwise.”
The Femme Fatale Experience is similar but allows women to choose three firearm rentals from a larger selection including a Smith & Wesson 617, .38 Special 686 revolver, .45 ACP HK, .223 AR-15, GLOCK 17 or 19 and CZ SP-01.
Centerfire Shooting Sports also highlights a bachelorette party experience on their website. It’s recommended for groups of eight but can be customized to fit groups of any size.
Other shooting scenarios they offer include the Triple Threat Experience (high-caliber rentals), a Full-Auto Experience and a Call of Duty Full Experience. These may or may not interest women, but they do simplify the shopping experience for those who may be looking to purchase a gift for their loved one.
3. Think Beyond Firearms.
While gun dealers obviously want to increase firearm sales, you’d be doing a disservice to not think beyond firearms when it comes to marketing your store to women.
Centerfire Shooting Sports offers a non-lethal personal-protection class generally twice a year geared toward college students.
“We typically host this course a couple of times a year, often in the spring and summer when college students are gearing up for the new school year,” said Basore. “We cover topics including situational awareness, self-defense and how to use non-lethal forms of personal protection like pepper spray, TASERs and alarms.”
4. Encourage Youth Involvement.
Women are the undeniable decision-makers for their households, and drive 70–80% of all consumer purchasing. Encouraging youth education and involvement can be an effective strategy for growing your female customer base.
Femme Fatale Arms hosts a children’s gun-safety class designed for ages 3–8 that doesn’t involve physically handling firearms at all.
“It’s purely educational and has been especially popular with home-school families,” said Dockery. “We partner with the pizza shop next door. Participants receive a certificate of completion along with a voucher for a slice of pizza and soda.”
Centerfire Shooting Sports hosts a youth night every Monday from 4–8 p.m. where youth (17 and under) shoot free when accompanied by a paying adult. They’re also planning to host some dad/daughter, mom/son events.
“Not only do we have parents who bring their children in for youth night, but we also see a lot of adult sons bring their moms in,” Basore said. “So, we figured why not make an event of it.”
5. Leverage Partnerships.
You can also leverage partnerships with manufacturer representatives and locally owned small businesses to host a trunk show or Ladies’ Night Out shopping event.
Although it sparked some controversy, Centerfire Shooting Sports said their Bullets, Bags & Botox event was one of the most popular events they have hosted to date. The event featured a selection of concealed carry purses, Botox treatments provided by an area plastic surgeon and clothing from Sideline Chic — a fashion line started by Danni Boatwright, former Miss Teen Kansas, Miss Kansas and CBS “Survivor Guatemala” winner (2005).
Other popular events included a book signing by Emily Miller, author of Emily Gets Her Gun, and a Dene Adams trunk show for the launch of the company’s CCW leggings. The latter was filmed as part of a BBC network shooting documentary featuring Dene Adams founder and CEO Anna Taylor.
Inviting manufacturer representatives and partnering with local businesses is a simple way to expand your reach by tapping into their audiences.
6. Find Opportunities To Educate.
From analyzing female purchasing behavior, consumer researchers have learned women often spend more time than men researching a product before making a purchase. This means there are opportunities to connect with women before they ever set foot in your store — you just have to meet them where they are.
Dockery of Femme Fatale Arms thought the most efficient and effective way to do this was by launching a podcast.
New episodes of the Ladies’ Gun Show Podcast are released every other Sunday. The show highlights issues responsible gun owners need to know, such as the concealed weapons permitting class, the realities of firearms training and what listeners need to do to build their knowledge and capabilities.
“I initially started the podcast to connect with beginners or those interested in purchasing a firearm for the first time,” she shared. “But pending legislation in our state has piqued the interest of a larger audience concerned with how these changes will adversely affect a woman’s ability to defend herself.”
Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office was recently a guest on the podcast. He offered his perspective as a law enforcement officer with over three decades of experience.
“Our goal is to cover hard-hitting issues that can sometimes be difficult to talk about, but with a soft touch,” she said. “Podcasts geared toward male audiences often come across as too aggressive.”
Ongoing ladies’ night promotions on the range are great to offer, but it’s not the only way to increase your female customer base. Thinking outside of the box to create classes, programs and events around female interests will help your business stand out from its competitors and make a lasting impression.
With the second half of the year ahead of us, we encourage you to get creative. If this article inspires you to branch out and create something new, we’d love to know. Email email@example.com.
Ashley McGee is a writer and marketing consultant specializing in editorial and advertorial articles, content marketing and social media management.