500 Range Visits & Counting …

What Makes Some Ranges More Successful Than Others?

Photo: NSSF

For this special Range Issue, I thought a rundown of some “best practices” I’ve picked up in 500+ onsite visits to individual ranges around the country would be helpful for range operators — and even retail-only facilities. Here are some lasting takeaways on what makes some ranges more successful than others.

First Shots: It Works

If you’re looking to get more shooters in the stalls, there’s no better way than to offer a First Shots event. Those of you who have been around a while, may scoff and say “Ah, we tried that once” — but you need to know NSSF Retail & Range Business Development Coordinator Ann Gamauf and her team have now super-charged the program.

A fee can now be applied to the class, plus ranges are able to offer participants a $25 gift certificate good at your store/range. Yes, you read that right: They take the class and receive a $25 gift card to your facility, courtesy of NSSF.

“We all talk about making ranges more inviting for those new to our sport, so upgrading a small area of your range can go a long way toward the goal.”

Jessica Keffer, marketing manager at The Sportsman’s Shop in East Earl, Pa., is one reaping the benefits of the new program (and they charge $50 per student). She reports over half of the students returned to the range after taking the First Shots class, plus more than 25% took a private lesson. Keffer offers a discount coupon on select items that would outfit a beginner shooter — such as eye/ear protection and locking storage. In the first 30 days after an event, over a quarter of the students come back to the store to make a purchase.

More than half of the shooters came back, and a quarter of them took another class, plus 25% purchased more equipment. I don’t know what more you could ask for to fill your range during the slow months!

Don’t Forget About “Fun”

First Shots does a great job of promoting the fun of shooting — does your range? Do you go after Tactical Tammy or Mall Ninja Mike, but aren’t marketing to those who shoot for recreation?

Take a look at your target selection. Are they all silhouettes and dark colors? Gun Fun Targets (and others) offer fun, colorful targets — like balloons and carnival games — and sell them in a fun pack of three to five targets for more sales.

Put Yourself In First-Time Customers’ Shoes

Package rental guns into shooting experiences. Envision yourself as a new shooter: How do you figure what it costs to go shooting at your range? The lane fee doesn’t tell you much, as you still need to add in a rental gun if you don’t own one. A first-time guest may not have eye/ear protection yet, so that needs to be added. And, of course, you’ll need ammunition (a range experience isn’t much fun without it) and something to shoot at.

Being new to the sport, first-time guests have no clue how much any of those items cost by themselves. It’s more straightforward for new shooters to know how much these items are — and even simpler when you bundle the whole experience together in one easy-to-understand package.

Golf offers a similar example. A first-time golfer could go buy a putter, wedge, driver and some balls, but it’s much simpler when the retailer offers a package with the needed clubs, balls and a bag as one package. The same thing applies to shooting.

Holding a First Shots class can be a boon to your operation — especially when you
can suggest product bundles to outfit first-time shooters. Photo: NSSF

Make It Exciting

Strap on your marketing hat to make the experience exciting. Have a local celebrity? Make a package with his/her three favorite firearms. Try a U.S. military package, where a new shooter can experience a magazine through each of the 1911, AR-15 and either SIG M17 or Beretta M9 platforms. Besides the firearm and ammunition (already preloaded in the magazines), include eye/ear protection (preferably with your range logo on them) and a range-logoed hat or T-shirt. Offer to super-size the package with extra ammunition for an additional fee.

Having rental-gun magazines pre-loaded with ammo will sell more ammo. Ever watched a new shooter struggle trying to get 17 rounds into a GLOCK 17 magazine? It’s the definition of anti-fun. Make it easy for them and they’ll buy more — even most experienced shooters don’t enjoy loading magazines.

Need more incentive to offer packages? Consider some younger generations lean more toward experiences than owning — your range rental packages fit the bill. In the future, some shooters may enjoy the sport by coming in often to rent firearms (maybe even the same one over and over), so you’re essentially storing and maintaining it for them.

A final point on rental gun packages: Think of the time savings for your staff not having to explain options and pricing as the customer suffers “paralysis by analysis,” figuring out what they want. Like anything in your business, use data to keep track of what packages were a hit or not — and keep tweaking to your market. Change it up at least quarterly.

Maximize Rental-Gun Exposure

Another good trick on rental firearms is to advertise the total retail dollar value of the rentals you have on hand. Telling the public “We have 100 rental firearms to choose from” does not sound nearly as impressive as saying “Select from over $50,000 worth of rental firearms for only $20!” If you have full-autos available, all the better for your dollar figure.

More on rental firearms: Do you have rental-gun signage on your retail guns? For firearms in the display case that are also available for rent, put “Try Me” signage on them. Daniel Defense, FN and some other manufacturers offer this signage. For those who don’t, make your own. Many buyers have no clue they can test-fire guns on your range; let these tags tell them.

Sarah Parkhurst, director of operations at Ann Arbor Arms in Ann Arbor, Mich., reports rentals of Daniel Defense guns have increased by 70% since she started using the tags to promote them — which has likewise led to more retail sales of Daniel Defense firearms.

The “try before you buy” approach is a huge advantage for stores with ranges. We need to let the shoppers know we offer this; the tags help by not needing to rely solely on salespeople to perform this function.

Effective Branding

When it comes to branding/promoting your range, here are a couple easy ones. Have an “I shot better than” sign available for shooters to tease the friend they came in with. Of course, the sign will have your range logo and information on it.

The Powder Room in Panama City Beach, Fla., uses the one pictured — with yours truly and Rob Davidson, president of Blaze Sales Group, demonstrating. In a similar vein, a selfie spot is great for shooters to document their experience on social media. Your selfie spot can be a simple backdrop, although something more unique will get more use and your range more exposure.

Is your logo on your range? I’m seeing more ranges putting their logo on the floor of the range near the stalls. This not only promotes your business (especially when shooters take pictures), but it can also look good. Vista Outdoor is working on a program where ranges are able to apply co-op funds for in-range signage (as shown above) from Sprague Sports in Yuma, Ariz.

Speaking of making your range look classy, adding commercial-grade flooring to the area from the firing line to the wall behind shooters can really upgrade your range look. Many ranges are only 12′ from the fire line to the front wall, so the cost is minimal to soften the look of your range. We all talk about making ranges more inviting for those new to our sport, so upgrading a small area of your range can go a long way toward the goal.

Stamping a logo on the range is a great opportunity to promote your brand, such as
what Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz., has implemented to great success.

In a similar vein, having fun signage for guests to hold after a day of shooting will lead
to increased promotion of your range through social media posts. Here, Doug (right)
has some fun claiming bragging rights over Rob Davidson of Blaze Sales Group.

Start A Tab

Want to sell more ammunition to range guests? If your POS allows running a tab, make it easy for guests (and better for your bottom line) by allowing them to take three boxes into the range with them.

It works like this: A guest asks for a box of 9mm range ammo with their lane time, your staff gives them three boxes, telling the guest, “Hey, to save time, take these three boxes. You won’t have to come out of the range, stand in line and use up some of your range time. We’ll only charge for what you open.” When the guest checks out and has only opened two, your clerk can offer to take the third box off the tab or point out three boxes earn a price discount of a X% off each box.

Something else that works well is when a consumer asks for a box of ammunition anywhere in the store, have your staff hand them two boxes. Over 20% of the time, they’ll take the second box. With no expiration date and prices increasing, it’s good for both of you. If they don’t want it, put it back on shelf — no harm, no foul.

Think of your ammunition sales in the course of a year, and add 20% to that number. It should put a smile on your face. It didn’t cost you anything and should have you dancing on the cash register.

Make Your “Welcome” Obvious

We’ll close with another small, but oh-so-important one: Do you have “Public Welcome” signage on your building and all marketing material? If not, you’re missing folks every single day.

It seems as soon as you have a range, folks tend to think your operation is a member-only facility. How many folks have never walked through your door because they still believe this? Tell them loud and proud — they are welcome.

Range operators — what other sales tips would you add to this list?

Retail-only dealers, do you see any of this impacting the way you promote your business? Let the SI team know:

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