By Carolee Anita Boyles
Sales of accessories and gun-care products follow firearm sales. And since every customer who buys a gun needs gun-care products, this is a must-carry category for retailers looking for repeat sales.
Michael Hutchings is the sales manager for AmChar Wholesale and has observed the saturation of the gun-care market with oils and products.
“Traditionally, we had just a few manufacturers,” he said. “Now there are just so many I can’t even mention them all. In the past, Hoppe’s was the number- one product, and it’s still one of the more popular ones. But now you’ve got Otis, FrogLube, Birchwood Casey, Break Free and the list goes on and on.”
As the firearms industry has grown in recent years, Hutchings noted accessories and gun-care products have grown right along with it.
“Now there are specific products for MSRs, and they’re marketed toward that platform of firearms,” he shared.
“Otis does a really good job. They’re one of the larger government facilitators, and they have a lot of government contracts. Typically with anything in the firearms industry there’s a trickle-down effect: Something starts with what the military uses and it trickles down to law enforcement, which then trickles down to the general consumer.”
Social media has played a huge role in what customers demand, he said.
“As far as marketing is concerned, social media has completely changed the game,” Hutchings expressed. “People who have a very strong social media presence are the ones who are really thriving right now.”
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JP Parkerson is the manager of the Palm Beach Shooting Center in Lake Worth, Fla. He said customers have been asking for Lucas Oil gun cleaning products recently.
“It’s a good product, but what’s driving the requests is their marketing,” he stated. “They spend a lot on marketing, and every new gun from American Tactical comes with a sample of Lucas Oil. They have a full line of grease, oil, lubricant, cleaner and solvent.”
Customers also buy a lot of Hoppe’s No. 9, Parkerson said.
“It’s always been a staple for us,” he added. “Remington Rem Oil is the other thing our customers always buy. Those are our three major sellers. Hoppe’s has been around so long it’s been known in the industry forever, and the old timers who are set in their ways won’t try anything new — they stick with Hoppe’s.”
At a recent AmChar Wholesale show, Parkerson purchased a full-range package of Lucas Oil gun cleaning products.
“They offered us quite a bit of advertising and free cleaning products for our range guns plus a whole display,” he shared. “So we bought one of their packages.”
The only tool his customers consistently ask for, according to Parkerson, is an armorer’s wrench for an MSR-style rifle.
“We carry the one from BCM; we don’t see any other tools,” he remarked.
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Stick With What Works
At The Stockade in Westminster, Calif., Manager Joe Dominguez said the gun-cleaning category has been diluted with the addition of many new brands.
“The brands we’ve always used are still effective,” he affirmed. “But some of the names have changed so often it’s hard for me to keep up. So I stick with what I know works for my customers.”
A number of years ago, Dominguez went to Pro-Shot products.
“I’ve basically gone all out on Pro-Shot,” he shared. “I also have other cleaners and lubricants I keep in stock, such as Eezox. I’ve been using it since I started working here in 1991 because it’s dependable and a cleaner/lubricant all in one. It doesn’t leave fingerprints on the gun when you handle it, and will protect the gun for up to six months.”
One of the things Dominguez likes about Pro-Shot is it’s a small, family-owned business.
“They started in 1982 and the company is still owned by the family,” he recalled. “They started out making cleaning brushes and have expanded until they do everything. They do brushes, rods, lubricants, bore guides and patches galore. I went from a little tiny display to an 8×4-foot display right at the front door. It’s one of my best displays because it has everything on it. If you don’t find something on it you want, it’s not something you want to clean your gun.”
Dominguez thinks shifts in the gun-care market are being driven by what customers read about in magazines.
“We’re a society that Googles everything,” he observed. “We read about something and we want to try it. Consumers are way smarter than they were 20 years ago. I had to sell something back then. Today, people come in and ask for what they want. It’s all due to what they’re reading. If they want something and you have it, you sell it. If you don’t, you talk the customer into buying something you know will get the job done — because if what they’re asking for turns out to be junk, they’re not going to come back.”
Another product carried at The Stockade is FrogLube.
“It’s kind of a water-based product,” Dominguez noted. “It sort of goes away from the thinking I was used to: You stay away from water if you’re trying to protect a gun. But it works well and guys like it, so we sell it.”
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Get Them Started With Gun Cleaning
Dominguez and his staff are always alert to the possibility of add-on sales of gun-care products.
“When a customer comes in and picks up his gun after 10 days of waiting, we always ask if we can get him ammo or a cleaning kit,” he said. “If he says he’s interested in cleaning, I show him all the kits. And I tell him if he’s going to do a lot of cleaning, I’d buy everything individually packaged because you get more product that way. I’ll start him off with a lubricant, cleaners and solvents. Then we go to brushes, rods and patches, and the little tools you use for MSRs and shotguns and pistols; they all do it differently.”
Some customers are a little reluctant to spend money on a lot of cleaning supplies when they’ve just spent $700 or more on a gun, Dominguez shared.
“Those people usually want a kit,” he said. “So we have kits to get them started. But for the guy that’s going to do a lot of shooting, I tell him he might as well buy the larger amounts now.”
In general, Dominguez has noticed sales of all gun products have slowed down.
“Times have kind of changed now we have a new leader who’s not talking about taking our guns,” he said. “There’s no panic right now, and customers have kind of cooled their jets. We’re back to normal business. Compared to the last several years we’re slow, so we get to talk to customers a little longer. It’s nice, especially for new enthusiasts; I spend a little more time now with customers because I can.”