The 5-Star Treatment

Special Range Designation Gives Retail
Managers Marketing Leverage
0

Sustained high-level business performance requires paying attention to details — large and small. Everything must come together to create the desired outcomes. Satisfied customers result in profitability, enabling retailers to reinvest and thrive, ideally continually improving their game.

In the area of managed, private sector indoor shooting ranges, the NSSF outlines the criteria that managers can use to drive excellence. The capstone payoff is designation as an NSSF 5-Star Range.

To earn NSSF’s 5- Star facility rating, a range must demonstrate quality across four categories: Appearance, Management, Shooting Sports Development and Amenities. Within each main category are sub-categories. For example, Appearance has Signage and Facility Exterior and Interior as sub-categories. Management sub-categories include Corporate Technology, Financial Awareness & Compliance, Marketing & Advertising, Staff Training, Uniforms, Security & Safety and Leadership. Sub-categories in the Shooting Sports Development Category include one of the same name as the main category, Community Engagement, Range Equipment & Practices and Environmental. The final main category, Amenities, assesses Retail Store/Pro Shop, Restrooms and Other Amenities.

Scoring criteria are grouped within the sub-categories. Using this as a detailed checklist, managers make an honest self-assessment across some 120 mostly qualitative criteria spanning the gamut of the operational and customer experience.

Each response requires supporting documentation, which can include photos or written explanations or both. A top score of 5 is warranted when a retailer demonstrably exceeds the criteria. A score of 3 is awarded for meeting the criteria. Failure to meet the criteria results in a goose egg — a 0.

The NSSF provides a form to use used in completing the assessment (which can be found here: https://bit.ly/3A49pPJ). A review panel comprised of members of the NSSF Range Advisory Council assesses and validates each submission packet.

Three Making It Work!

Those who’ve gained that 5-Star distinction say it comes with benefits. Here’s a look at three top-performing ranges.

Will Doss is the general manager a Green Top Sporting Goods’ range in Ashland, Va. Green Top Shooting’s range began operations in 2019. Last year, the facility hosted more than 36,000 shooters. The 5-Star rating came in January 2022.

“We cater to all of types of shooters with various skill levels,” Doss said. “It isn’t uncommon to see some of our members 3–5 times a week. They vary in age and diversity from the young adult just discovering their passion for shooting to the retired individual who now has more time to do what they love.”

Handgun shooters comprise most of Green Top’s guests followed by modern sporting rifle fans. Rimfire and defensive shotgun shooters are at the other end of the spectrum, but steadily gaining numbers, Doss adds.

Nishan Campbell, co-founder and CEO of Gunfighter Canyon, with locations in Page and Williams, Ariz., says both of his facilities received the 5-Star rating in July 2021. The Williams range is located on Historic Route 66, in the heart of downtown.

Each location serves 200–600 shooters per month per location in the winter months and 1,200–2,000 shooters during the summer, according to Campbell.

Interestingly, most of Campbell’s clientele are foreign-born visitors.

“We frequently have guests tell us they drive past other ranges to come visit us. That is powerful motivation, and we are so very proud and grateful to be able to experience that feeling.”

Will Doss | General Manager | Green Top

“Most of our users are looking for a first-time experience,” Campbell shared. “They’re typically visiting the United States for the first time. Our submachine guns and belt fed machineguns are by far the most requested.”

Rob Euerle, president of Parma Armory Shooting Center in Parma, Ohio, a suburb south of Cleveland, says his operation received 5-Star designation in December 2020.

“After all the work we did to meet the high standards set for 5-Star recognition, it was like winning an Oscar,” Euerle stated. “Congratulations and backslapping all around. It validated we had achieved so many of our goals.”

Parma Armory’s five-lane range opened in March 2017. The double-deck 21 Guns Salute Range opened in October 2019.

Euerle was reluctant to specify precise throughput for the facility but said thousands of customers visit monthly. He credits proximity to Cleveland for his diverse customer mix, with shooters of all ages and genders from both urban and suburban environments. Most come to shoot handguns, but many shoot rifles and some shotguns.

At Gunfighter Canyon’s Williams, Ariz., facility, Assistant Manager Shawna Gonzales walks a customer
through a handgun purchase. Gunfighter Canyon’s two locations (the other is in Page) are 5-Star ranges.

Access & Partnerships

Successful, clean, reliable ranges tend to attract business and generate demand. Green Top offers memberships that offer perks and monthly specials. Doss says most nonmember guests soon realize buying a membership is a worthwhile investment, especially if they’re regular shooters.

Green Top also recognizes women are a key target audience.

“Women are our fastest-growing segment of shooters and we have several ladies groups that frequent the facility weekly,” Doss informed. “Women students also make up approximately 50–60% of all entry-level classes with many registering for additional training afterward.”

In the area of community partnerships, Green Top enjoys working relationships with several law enforcement and first responder agencies, including the Virginia Capitol Police, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, City of Richmond Fire Marshalls and the Ashland Police Department, to name a few.

They also partner with several regional shooting clubs that stage weekly and monthly events at the range. These partner clubs get access to meeting rooms and discounted range time. Included here are The Well Armed Woman, A Girl & A Gun, Friends of the NRA, plus several corporate members who utilize the range facility for team building events and celebrations.

“Our submachine guns and belt fed machine guns are by far the most requested.”

Nishan Campbell | Co-Founder & CEO | Gunfighter Canyon

Gunfighter Canyon works with three city police departments, two state agencies and six different federal agencies in training and procurement, according to Campbell.

Parma Armory also serves several law enforcement agencies.

“They find our five classes and 30-yard, five-lane range perfect for private classes, and shooting proficiency practice and qualifying,” Euerle said. A Girl & A Gun combined its Akron and Cleveland clubs into a single group with its home base now the Parma Armory Shooting Center.

Juggling throughput is essential. People don’t like to wait long for access to a shooting lane.

“Wait times can vary depending on the day of the week,” shared Green Top’s Doss. “Weekends are our busiest time and we usually have all three bays (24 lanes) filled. Wait times are normally 30 minutes or less on the weekends and very minimal, if any, on the weekdays.”

The sheer size of Parma Armory Shooting Center lends itself to ready customer access. Euerle notes it is home to the world’s largest indoor double-deck gun range. The 21 lanes and a separate five-lane gun range open lanes are readily available even on peak weekend days and times, he noted.

Green Top maintains a robust retail footprint as part of its business. Its
“Member Services” area is clearly marked next to merchandising.

Outside Parma Armory’s 21 Gun Salute Range, Rob Euerle shares
the benefits of targets on hand for customers to buy.

Best Foot Forward — Selling It

Doss spotlights Green Top’s modern, computerized targets and range ventilation systems, plus the spacious, clean, well-merchandised and maintained customer facing areas as powerful selling attributes.

“You can tell a lot of preparation and hard work happens before the doors open each day,” Doss stated.

Gunfighter’s Page location, which opened in 2017, features a floor-to-ceiling ballistic glass that looks into the main range, something Campbell calls “a centerpiece for our modern design.”

Besides ample access and resources, Euerle says Parma’s best attribute is a “totally customer-centric approach to everything we do. Superb customer service is our standard.”

Campbell says social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and YouTube, plus tourism sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp or Google are the main vehicles for marketing their 5-Star rating. Also important are monthly email campaigns as well as paid online advertisements.

Green Top’s robust marketing and public relations efforts cover the waterfront, from employing the Richmond-based PR firm Madison + Maine for company-wide press releases to using the inhouse marketing team for myriad heavy lifting, whether that be packaging messages and producing videos for social media, doing radio voiceovers, and vendor and community relations.

“The team utilizes all of these different avenues to drive home the 5-Star story as well as the constantly evolving journey of our company,” Doss says.

All prominently display their 5-Star plaques to remind customers they’re getting top-flight service.

No Time For Complacency

Getting to the top is a journey. Staying on top takes commitment. A 5-Star rating is something that merits continuous polishing.

Doss believes the rating offers additional leverage compared to other facilities that have not achieved this distinction.

“We understand people have a choice where to spend their hard-earned money,” Doss says. “The 5-Star rating represents a passion to provide guests with an experience they will remember and can share with their friends and family. There are other local ranges that compete for the same business, but we feel that having that stamp of approval by the NSSF is invaluable. There is a sense of pride, customer trust and true appreciation that comes with that distinguished logo. We frequently have guests tell us they drive past other ranges to come visit us. That is powerful motivation, and we are so very proud and grateful to be able to experience that feeling.”

“Most of our users are looking for a first-time experience.”

Nishan Campbell | Co-Founder & CEO | Gunfighter Canyon

Campbell says having the first 5-Star rated ranges in Arizona gives employees confidence when educating new customers.
“Our range members are always proud to visit other shooting ranges and report back the 5-Star difference they receive at Gunfighter,” Campbell said.

“To be recognized by our industry trade association leader is a wonderful accomplishment and a testament to our employee’s success. Now it’s our duty to uphold the 5 stars and earn that rating every day,” he added.

Euerle believes the NSSF top rating demonstrates to customers the facility has “gone the extra mile to make Parma Armory Shooting Center the best in every possible way and has helped us become the leading facility of its kind in the Greater Cleveland area. It is a reaffirmation that we feel makes our customer messaging — though totally honest — more believable.”

While getting the rating took total team commitment, Doss believes going through the process was invaluable.

“This process took well over a year to complete and to be honest it pushed us out of our comfort zones,” Doss says. “In the end we were all so grateful to go through the process as it made us better teammates, better leaders and allowed us to deliver an experience our guests deserve.”

Click To Read More Shooting Industry August 2022 Issue Now!