Pandemic + Social Unrest =

Record Interest In Secure Firearms Storage

Security is on everyone’s mind today. We’re living in strange times, reflected in the number of guns people are buying and the storage solutions they’re purchasing, as well.

Barry Burdett sells a wide array of safes and lock boxes at Burdett & Son Outdoor Adventure Shop in College Station, Texas. He’s seen an increase in sales of all types of secure storage this year.

This increase accompanied a strong surge in firearms sales. Many sales have been to first-time firearms purchasers who had only a rudimentary knowledge of guns when they first came into the shop — and sometimes even less knowledge of secure storage. Burdett, of course, takes every opportunity to educate those customers about the need for secure storage, which leads to informed customers and increased sales.

“I’ve seen this repeated over and over again,” Burdett noted. “Any time there’s uncertainty, it seems to be the driving force in the firearms market. Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a hurricane, or a rumor like a shortage of toilet paper or food — any time you can’t tell what’s going to happen in the next couple of months, you’ll see people gravitate toward firearms as something they want for their personal security and safety.”

The times we’re living in right now, though, are unique.

“I’ve never seen things quite this busy,” Burdett admitted, “even when big hurricanes have hit Texas and Louisiana, or when Galveston and New Orleans were in big trouble from floods, or when presidential elections have been coming along, even when there’s been talk of a war.”

Change In Customer?

The most popular category at Burdett’s establishment is conventional gun safes. Increased demand for safes has affected his supply chain, including slower turnaround on orders and increased delivery times.

Burdett stocks Liberty and Browning safes; although he has stocked other brands in the past, the others haven’t sold particularly well for him.

“It comes down to what’s in stock, and what fits the customer’s needs,” he explained. “And usually it’s down to size and capacity, fire rating and price. All of those things go into what makes the decisions for customers.”

In that category, he said, customers are purchasing a wide variety of models; he can’t point to any one model or feature customers are looking for.

“It comes down to what’s in stock, and what fits the customer’s needs. And usually it’s down to size and capacity, fire rating and price. All of those things go into what makes the decisions for customers.”

Barry Burdett Burdett & Son Outdoor College Station, Texas

In the current market, Burdett isn’t seeing any particular category of customer who’s purchasing safe storage products.
“It’s not typically only families, or only younger people or older people, or only females or males buying secure storage products,” he observed.

It boils down to one of two things, according to Burdett: First, securing firearms to keep them from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and second, protection of valuables other than firearms.

“This market isn’t all that different from what it usually is,” he asserted. “People are more committed to buy; the level of commitment is definitely elevated.”

“Safes Have Been Selling Like Mad”

At Mark’s Outdoor Sports in Vestavia, Ala., John Fuller is the designated expert on safes and other secure storage options.

Prior to the pandemic, most customers who purchased safes were established gun owners. Today, Mark’s Outdoor Sports is seeing many gun owners who hadn’t previously owned a safe purchase one now.

“Especially with all the theft going on, and with the demand for guns going through the roof, safes have been selling like mad,” Fuller shared. “I’ve had the busiest March, April and May I’ve ever had — and I’ve been here 17 years.”

Browning 1878 – 33 Standard

Fuller generally sells about 1,000 safes a year, but he expects the number to be much higher for 2020. The upturn in secure storage sales earlier this year began when COVID-19 started making the news; the civil unrest of mid-June drove sales even higher.

Most of the secure storage items he’s selling are regular floor safes, because they’re big, and customers can store a lot in them. Customers like the Liberty models with modular interiors because they can customize the space.

“You can put your guns in them and use the shelves on the other half of the safe for coins, documents, jewelry, passports, those kinds of things,” Fuller said. He’s had a couple of customers store their sterling silver in their gun safes. Other customers have filled them from floor to ceiling with ammunition.

Sales of small, bedside pistol safes also have surged at Mark’s. These are the small lock box- type safes with biometric readers on them.

“You can get those open in a second, rather than having to punch buttons,” Fuller noted. “You just put your finger on those, and swipe and the door opens.”

“Especially with all the theft going on, and with the demand for guns going through the roof, safes have been selling like mad. I’ve had the busiest March, April and May I’ve ever had — and I’ve been here 17 years.”

John Fuller Mark’s Outdoor Sports Vestavia, Ala.

The only full-size safes Fuller stocks are Liberty safes; the top seller at Mark’s Outdoor Sports is the Liberty Colonial 50.
“The next most popular one is the Centurion 24, followed by the USA 30,” he added.

Fuller believes the popularity of the Colonial 50 is due to a combination of size and features. It’s big, with a fire rating of 60 minutes at 1,200 degrees.

“And it’s very, very strong,” he confirmed. “A lot of people have already bought one safe and got one too small to start with. So they come back and buy a bigger one.” Fuller said the Centurion 24 and the USA 30 are both good, solid safes at a very reasonable price.

“They have lower fire ratings than the Colonial 50, but these customers aren’t so much concerned with fire as they are with theft,” he said.

Another reason for the popularity of Liberty safes, Fuller said, is the degree to which they stand behind their warranty.
“If there are any warranty issues, they handle them,” he noted. “They don’t make excuses. They just take care of business.”

Fuller contends another facet of safe sales is having the right delivery company. He has someone he works with all the time who understands what he wants and gets it done fast.

“She knows what I want, I get her on the phone every time, and there’s nothing to figure out,” he said. If someone wants to pick up their own safe, the store has a forklift and trained operators who can load the safe properly onto the customer’s vehicle.

Predictions Moving Forward

What the rest of 2020 brings is a good guess, Burdett said, but he expects to see continued strong interest in both firearms and secure storage products. How strong this interest remains depends on a lot of factors, including the economy, the presidential election and the overall attitude of the country.

“Depending on those and other factors, we may continue to see a heightened increase for the rest of the year and into the next couple of years,” he predicted.

Fuller likewise anticipates secure storage sales will continue to increase.

“Sales certainly will stay high at least through the fall,” he predicted. “If the COVID virus mutates and behaves similarly to influenza in 1918, we haven’t seen anything yet.”

If President Trump is reelected in November and things begin to settle, Fuller expects sales will start to taper off. However, if Joe Biden is elected, he thinks secure storage sales will go through the roof in a way we haven’t even begun to see yet.

“It could reach the point of the demand exceeding the available product,” he presumed. “It could be like the time after Sandy Hook. People wanted safes and I couldn’t get them.”

Whatever it will be, Fuller predicts, it won’t be boring.

Dealers, how has the equation of the pandemic and social unrest fueled secure storage sales at your store?
We want to hear from you!

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