Breaking Down
Barriers To Entry

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Kings Gun Center welcomed the V Town Derby Dames from nearby
Visalia for some team development time at its range last year.

In previous issues of Shooting Industry, we’ve often focused on tips for marketing to female consumers such as alternatives to ladies’ night or concealed carry apparel for women. While we hope you’ve found these tips valuable, we think it’s time to get to the core of why these unique strategies are necessary in the first place.

Those in the firearms industry have generally focused on what motivates women to purchase a firearm and what products and features women prefer. You’ve likely also read information about how female buying behavior differs. But, what if we shift our perspective?

Instead of only analyzing why women purchase a gun or shoot at the range, turn the question on its head and consider the reasons why an even larger population of women don’t.

Combating The Intimidation Factor

I spoke to several women to ask if they felt comfortable going to a retailer to purchase a gun on their own or shoot at a range by themselves. A few common themes emerged from their responses.

The most common one was they feel intimidated going to a gun store/range on their own. One likened it to going to a male-dominated gym full of weight lifters to workout for the first time.

Todd Cotta, president of Kings Gun Center in Hanford, Calif., said the intimidation factor is a concern he hears often when women come in for the first time.

“When we were just a small gun store, we rarely saw female customers,” Cotta recalled. “It was a more traditional environment most people think of when they think of a gun store.”

Over the last eight-and-a-half years, as Kings Gun Center expanded to a new location and built a range and training program, they’ve seen a dramatic influx of female shooters. He currently estimates women make up 30%–40% of the overall customer base.

“When we built this place, I wanted to create a family-friendly environment where parents felt comfortable coming in themselves or bringing their kids,” Cotta said. “I think the fact 50% of our employees behind the counter are women helps and we also allow children ages 8 and up to shoot with an accompanying adult.”

Not only do they have female staff members, but all of them have their CCW licenses and carry in the store. After all, firearms seem much less intimidating when you see someone who looks like you and you can relate to safely handling them.

To further combat the intimidation factor, Cotta also emphasized their “no pressure” approach.

“Whether a woman comes in for one-on-one training or for one of our group training classes, we don’t force anyone to complete the shooting portion if they don’t feel comfortable,” he shared. “We even offer for them to come back and finish another time if they didn’t shoot all the rounds that came with their training.”

The approach must be well received because at the time we spoke in early June, their First Shots training course — typically held Tuesdays and Saturdays — was sold out through the end of July. A course, according to Cotta, is often comprised of 80% women.

They also frequently host private classes, groups of military wives and corporate classes.

“In a lot of areas, independent retailers like us can’t compete with our big-box competitors,” he noted. “But we can offer a level of service they simply can’t maintain.”

It’s this level of service and the inclusive atmosphere Cotta has built that has spread via word of mouth among the women in their community.

A Simple Philosophy

Of course, getting more women into your store or on the range is only half the battle.

Another common theme I heard from the women I spoke to is they don’t feel knowledgeable enough about firearms to have confidence in their purchasing decision. Many said they would only make a purchase or go to the range if they brought a trusted person with them like a spouse, boyfriend or father.

Understanding this concern, Atlanta Range and Ordnance (Newnan, Ga.) offers a discounted rate for additional shooters on the same lane — $18 for one shooter and $9 for others. They also offer a $30 date night package every Friday, which includes a free target and handgun rental with the purchase of ammo.

However, women also shared it’s not only their lack of knowledge but also a fear being taken advantage of because of it. It would be like taking their car to a mechanic for service and being talked into repairs they may or may not really need.

“Our philosophy is simple,” said Gary DeGeorge, Jr., president and owner of Atlanta Range and Ordnance. “We treat every woman who walks through our doors the way we would want our moms or sisters to be treated.”

“Our philosophy is simple: We treat Every Woman Who walks Through our doors the way we would want our moms or sisters to be treated.”

Gary DeGeorge, Jr., President & Owner Atlanta Range and Ordnance

Of their five-person sales support staff, DeGeorge noted two are women. The entire team is trained to listen first and ask the right questions in a way beginners aren’t made to feel like they’re asking stupid questions.

DeGeorge also shared two other common challenges he often encounters when female shooters visit his location for the first time.
“Some women come in and the only exposure they’ve had to firearms is what they’ve seen on the news or on television and in movies,” he stated. “On the flip side, we also meet a lot of women who aren’t necessarily first-time shooters but have had a poor experience because someone like a boyfriend or spouse started them out with a higher caliber — leaving them scarred from shooting again.”

To ease fears in both of these cases, DeGeorge said his staff is encouraged to be overaccommodating by spending extra time talking them through what to expect and accompanying them on the range to help them feel more comfortable.

Impact Of Current Events

Presently, around 15% of Atlanta Range and Ordnance’s customers are women. According to DeGeorge, the percentage of female shooters ebbs and flows in response to external factors such as current events.

When the range first opened in 2012, he noted they had a solid female customer base right out of the gate but then it subsided.

“Now, we’re starting to see a resurgence. We’ve also seen a lot of women come in we haven’t seen in a while,” DeGeorge observed.

The increase in new female customers aligns with the results from a recent survey conducted by the NSSF which sought to learn more about what firearm retailers were seeing pertaining to sales during the first four months of 2020.

There were more than 6.5 million NSSF-adjusted background checks in the first four months of 2020, of which retailers estimated 40% could be attributed to first-time gun buyers. Additionally, respondents noted 40% of those first-time buyers were female.

In order to capitalize on this momentum, it’s equally important to understand what women want (as well as what they don’t want) and actively seek out ways to break down these common barriers to entry.

This may mean diversifying your staff, evaluating your training and range policies or simply asking yourself if your store or range is somewhere your mom, wife, daughter or sister would feel welcomed.

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