By Tim Barker
For most dealers, the concealable handgun represents one of the pillars upon which a business can be built. Manufacturers are constantly churning out new versions of established platforms — along with a few original designs — that attract the attention of customers and their wallets.
Unless you’ve figured out a way to move remarkable numbers of handguns, you’re unlikely to stay in business long without convincing customers to add a few accessories to their shopping cart.
“You’re lucky if you make 10% on a gun. With accessories, you can make probably 35%,” said Kathy Peisert, owner of Great Guns in Liberty, Mo.
An advantage of tapping into the accessory market is customers don’t seem to be as price sensitive when it comes to buying holsters and other related items.
“As soon as you sell the gun,
you ask if they need a holster.”
Kathy Peisert, Owner Great Guns, Liberty, Mo.
“People don’t shop out accessories like they do guns,” she shared. “If a store has a nylon holster for $24.99, they don’t care if the guy down the street has it for $19.99.”
Of course no discussion of accessories would be complete without the subject of holsters. At Great Guns, located 10 miles north of Kansas City, the holster is the top-selling accessory — with top brands including Tagua, Blackhawk, Soft Armor and Sneaky Pete. Leather holsters are far more popular than Kydex, which have seen sales decline recently, according to Peisert.
“People are concerned with it marring their guns — more than they are with leather,” she
While some shop owners opt for universal-fit holsters, Peisert said her customers prefer those made for specific guns. It means dedicating more inventory space to accommodate the larger number of selections. But she sees value there: “I’ve never seen a one-size-fits-all that fits any of the guns perfectly,” she noted.
This particular strategy is echoed by Sharp Shooters Safe & Gun in Lubbock, Texas, where Owner Izzy Musquiz stocks some four-dozen holster models to cover a wide range of popular handguns. His shop also offers a reminder the experiences of one store may not mirror those of another.
Where Great Guns has seen declining interest in Kydex, the opposite is true at Sharp Shooters.
Until early last year they didn’t even stock Kydex holsters, but sales have skyrocketed in the past year, with C&G holsters proving popular with customers.
“It seems like every time I turn around, the Kydex wall is empty,” said Musquiz, noting leather is still the top-selling material, however.
It Starts With A Conversation
For both stores, the key to selling those holsters — and everything else — is to get the customer talking about their plans for the gun.
“As soon as you sell the gun, you ask if they need a holster,” Peisert advised.
The staff at Great Guns knows to walk the customer over to the holster section and show them various options — and what the gun looks like in those options. They use a similar approach for customers who already have a gun; they’ll even ask the customer to bring the gun into the store.
“They can see what it looks like in the holster,” Peisert said. “And it also helps cut down on returns.”
Of course, the conversation with the customer — the downtime while waiting for a background check to clear is the perfect opportunity — can lead to other sales as well.
“Buying a gun is a whole interview process for us,” Musquiz confirmed.
His salespeople focus on learning what the buyer plans to do with the gun. Will it be carried, used for home defense or for plinking at the range? Do they need ammo specifically for those uses?
It’s also a good time to figure out if the customer might be a good candidate for night sights, red dots, weapon lights or lasers.
Night sights and red dots are popular add-ons, driven by the likes of Trijicon, Vortex and Leupold. Even though guns are often offered from the manufacturer with night sights, he said many of his customers are willing to pay extra to add Trijicon’s HD sights.
They have the advantage (from the shop’s perspective) of only being offered as aftermarket options. It also helps the rear sight is designed for one-handed manipulation: “These are more than just night sights,” Musquiz added.
In recent years, red dots have become more common thanks to changes in the way guns are being made today.
“Three years ago, those kinds of guns were few and far between,” he said. “Now, everybody’s got some sort of optic-ready handgun.”
Interestingly, the popularity of red dots may be hurting another segment. Lasers are increasingly losing their appeal, and Musquiz sees nothing to suggest it’s going to change: “I think the reason for this is red dots are selling more. They serve the same purpose.”
Where holsters may be the easiest add-on to sell, weapon lights may be the most difficult. The shop carries SureFire and Streamlight options. Convincing someone to add a pricey Surefire X300 light to a GLOCK can be an uphill struggle.
“It’s essentially the same price they paid for the gun,” he said.
To help with all of these sales, the store keeps several guns on display equipped with optics, lights and other accessories. It helps the customers quickly visualize what their own guns could look like with the available options.
Find A Niche
Sometimes, the key to making extra sales can be as simple as figuring out what your particular customer base is interested in. There are opportunities to grab sales — as well as those to avoid.
Sharp Shooters does a brisk business in the kinds of guns used by action-pistol competitors, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to accessories sales. The problem is these shooters tend to have very personal preferences in their competition setups.
“You would have to carry too many options for these guys,” Musquiz relayed.
Then there are the magnets, the kind that can be installed under a desk or under a car’s dashboard to offer easy access to a handgun. It’s something customers were asking about and the shop started carrying: “We usually just stock whatever is cheap, and we can get our hands on,” he added.
At Great Guns, Peisert has found modest success with concealed carry purses. They carry three lines — Gun Tote’n Mamas, Bulldog and Roma — with 15 different models. They end up selling two or three a week.
“You’d be surprised how many guys come in and buy one,” she said. “They say their wives or girlfriends wouldn’t buy one themselves.”
Getting The Word Out
Sharp Shooters is active on social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram. Musquiz wants the store’s presence to do more than just list new inventory.
“You don’t want to be the store that just shows what you’ve got,” he suggested.
Instead, they mix in informational and educational posts along with promotions and demo videos in hopes of getting customers to engage with the shop. They also do some newspaper and radio advertising — sponsoring a local morning talk show where Musquiz appears from time to time to discuss news events and to promote sales promotions.
“We’re kind of a small town, so radio still works,” he said. “It attracts an older crowd, but it still has its place.”
“We’re kind of a small town, so radio
still works. It attracts an older crowd,
but it still has its place.”
Izzy Musquiz, Owner Sharp Shooters Safe & Gun, Lubbock, Texas
Missouri’s Great Guns has a modest social media presence with a Facebook page that’s updated about once or twice a week.
“I know it’s probably a place we’re lacking,” Peisert admitted.
Instead, she relies primarily on word of mouth and a customer base that has been shopping at the store for decades. She sees multiple generations of the same families coming into the store.
She won’t touch the local newspaper, however: “It’s $100 an inch. You tell me how you can do that and make a profit,” she said.
They do, however, have weekly CCW classes (advertised through Facebook) to generate additional sales.
“Just about everyone who takes a class, if they don’t already have one, will buy a gun from us,” she said.
Two stores with different experiences can agree on one thing, though: If your team doesn’t fully engage with the customer, there will be money left on the table with each firearm sale.