Boosting Summer Traffic


Image: Tartila / Adobe Stock

A number of years back, I was working at an outdoor retailer and responsible for its sales. When I didn’t hit the target sales number due to slow business, I told the owner it was because of the recession. He replied, “Yes, I’ve heard about the recession but decided not to participate — you better hit the number next month.” Good advice: his mentality was one of the reasons why his store was very successful for the 50-plus years he was at the helm.

Regardless of what my old boss expressed, we all know business slows down some in the summer months — when we compete against vacations, outdoor activities, folks not wanting to get out of their air-conditioned homes, etc. The million-dollar question is: What should we do about it?

Is It Self-Inflicted?

I’m of the belief some parts of our summer slowdowns are self-inflicted. At my store/range I cut back my advertising in late spring/early summer anticipating the slowdown. I often wonder how much did reducing my advertising spend affect my sales and range traffic. In addition, I also cut down on my sales staff hours. How much did less salespeople on the floor impact sales? Looking back, I would still lower advertising and staffing — just not as much.

Speaking of reducing expenses: Summer is a great time for staff to take some vacation, so maybe cut back some hours for the part-timers. Use your judgement on how much to cut back without affecting your level of customer service.

Use your point-of-sale (POS) software to follow traffic count trends in previous years.

Mission Ridge Range And Academy challenged guests to face off against the
Twisted Ballistics shooting team (top). The turnout from this year’s event provided
a welcome boost during the slower summer months — and supported a good cause (bottom).

Time For Reflection

Slow season is also a perfect time to look at your showroom. Does it need a makeover? Now’s a good time for it — even if it’s just a good cleaning and moving some fixtures around. If you have a range, you know they need maintenance and lead mining. Summer is a great time to get caught up on these projects and maybe do some upgrades.

Use this time when you’re not running around with your hair on fire to meet with your key staff members and ask probing questions about how they feel the first half of the year has gone. What changes would they make if they were the owner? These should be some deep dives, really listen. 

Get in touch with other store owners in our industry; ask what they’re planning for the rest of the year. Right now — while there is still some time to save your year — is the time to make changes if things aren’t shaping up how you hoped. 

Next to labor, inventory is usually your largest cost. For this, plan your purchasing for the rest of the year. Don’t book out your purchases to have the same amount of inventory year round, use your POS data and look at previous years’ product flow (of course the firearms industry has extreme swings in business that have nothing to do with summer slowdown, so you’ll need to look at the data through the eyes of your gut).

The time to slow your buying down and reduce inventory intake is before the stuff stacks up. In no way do you want high carry costs of too much inventory during the slow season.

Use this time when you’re not running around with your hair on fire to meet with your key staff members and ask probing questions about how they feel the first half of the year has gone.

KIDS’ Camp, With A Firearms Twist

Enough of waving the white flag. Here are some ideas to bring you business during the slow season. 

Remember going to camp as a kid? How about taking that fun experience and giving it a firearms twist? Host a shooting camp for kids at your range.

Ryan Burt, CEO of the Calibers Shooting Centers with three locations in New Mexico, has been hosting youth camps for 10 years. They currently offer two camps, one for ages 8–12 at a price of $94.99 and another for teenagers from 13–17 years of age at a price of $179.99. Camps are two to three days depending on the age group and include everything from lunch to bullets. 

Some of the topics covered by the NRA-certified instructors include firearm safety, proper response to finding an unattended firearm, marksmanship fundamentals and, of course, actual shooting on the range — all taught in a safe, fun environment. Kids’ camp participants get to shoot balloons, bowling pin shapes, plastic bottles filled with colorful liquid and more.

Burt shared some tips on hosting a Kids’ camp. Number one, get the word out to the community far in advance. He recommends a minimum of 45 days before the event. As far as the number of instructors needed, he uses a 3:1 ratio of students to instructors. Last year Calibers decided to split the age groups into two, one for ages 8–12 and another for ages 13–17; this allows the older group to do more advanced shooting. The campers really like the new format. Calibers has received positive feedback from the community on the camp, especially parents. 

Putting on a camp is not without a lot of effort, but is it worth it? Face it, some events (especially during slow times of the year) will not bring in instant sales. Instead, you’re planting seeds for the future by exposing your business to new potential customers. 

With a kids’ camp, many of the campers are under driving age — so you’re also getting an adult who has to drop off /pick up inside the store, giving you a chance to show off your facility and maybe sell them something as well.

Speaking of selling them something, I’m a big believer of getting non-shooters into your facility. These non-shooters may become customers if they see a clean well-lit store with a friendly staff — so it could pay off in the future. Even if they don’t become shooters today, they may need a gift for a shooter in the future and remember your establishment.

The time to slow your buying down and reduce inventory intake is before the stuff stacks up.

Maximum Benefit From Charitable Efforts

Hosting a fundraising event for a local charity is another good way to bring folks into your business during the summer, just make sure you actually get them through the door. 

The following comes from an experience of a friend of mine. He had the great idea to be a stop for a motorcycle club charity poker run. All good so far: promoting his business in the community, helping a charity and getting the riders to come to his establishment during business hours to pick up the poker chip. However, he lost the bet as the club set up to give out the chips in the parking lot. Riders and organizers came as far as the parking lot to get the chip, talked a bit and then went on to the next stopping point without stepping foot into his store. We need to at least get them into the building to get the maximum benefit.

Mission Ridge Range And Academy, with locations in San Antonio and Plano, Texas, is one of the nicer range and retail stores you’ll find. They got their charitable participation right: they not only got potential customers in the door, they also got them to shoot on their range.

Mission Ridge recently hosted a Twisted Ballistics Youth Shooting Team fundraising event at their San Antonio location. Rafe Corley, director of retail, said the event brought in over 200 shooters and was a fun day at the range for their customers and team members. 

How did they get so many shooters? They made it exciting by asking “Are you faster than a Twisted Ballistics Youth Shooter?” For $10, they got to go head-to-head with a Twisted Ballistics athlete on the range to see who could ring the steel targets the fastest. Rental gun/rimfire ammo were included in the price with all the proceeds going to the Twisted Ballistics team. 

Mission Ridge also had multiple raffles and food trucks with Black Rifle Coffee, Sons of Liberty Gun Works and other vendors attend to make this a successful event. 

Rafe is excited about partnering with them again in the future and quipped, “Hopefully I can improve my own shooting skills and maybe give them a little more competition next time.”

Not only was the event a smashing success for Twisted Ballistics, Rafe shared, “It also hit on one of our core values of community involvement. We’re always looking for opportunities to ‘Advance the Sport.’ We believe partnering with youth shooters is a great way to engage with our local communities and Twisted Ballistics has been such a great partner through the years.”


Following minor league baseball teams is another way to learn about promotions that may work for you. Have you found ways to make your summer slowdown better? Let others know by contacting this fine magazine:

Click To Read More Shooting Industry August 2023 Issue Now!