Flashlight Sales

A “Hands-On” Approach Favors Gun Stores

Image: Powertac

The LED flashlight market is huge and expected to continue to climb. 

According to Research and Markets, consumers spent $641 million on flashlights in 2020 and the market is expected to reach $901 million by 2028 in North America.1

The first flashlight was developed in 1899 and had a filament with three D batteries. The basic design remained the same for 100 years, until 1999. That’s when Lumileds Corp. of San Jose, Calif., created a white-light emitter called the Luxeon LED. The LED was a game changer because it is energy efficient, inexpensive and can take a beating.

Flashlight Market Growth Projections

Jeremy Rosenberg, VP of sales and marketing for SureFire, reinforced the growth projections. 

“Predicting future sales is always the most difficult part of managing our business. 2023 has been very strong for us, and so far, all indications are this trend will continue,” he said. “We’re optimistic we’ll come into a strong fall and upcoming new products will continue to drive strong sales through the end of 2023 and into Q1 and Q2 of 2024.”

Tips To Beat the Price Check

There is also no comparison when it comes to the light output of an LED versus an incandescent bulb, and this is where a hands-on approach can benefit a retailer.

Steve Meitzler, marketing director for Powertac, said, “Retailers need to understand the advantage they have and the value they offer to their customers online retailers do not have. People love instant gratification. Being able to hold a flashlight, feel its quality and see how bright it is in person is why we have found someone is more likely to buy a flashlight in person than online.”

For this reason, Meitzler recommends having demo flashlights available.

“A customer can’t appreciate the quality if it’s just another flashlight in a box. But if he has decided to buy the light while in the store, you have to assume they’ll get out their phone and check the price online. If the online price is considerably better, they’ll likely buy it online. Even though people like instant gratification, they’re often not willing to pay 20–30% more for the item now when they could have it shipped to them in two days.”

Meitzler said Powertac has a flexible stocking dealer program.

“We don’t require a certain buy-in amount, so this means even small shops can try us out,” he stated. “We even allow retailers to exchange slow-moving SKUs for different ones as long as the products are still new in the box and in good condition.”

“Being able to hold a flashlight, feel its quality and see how bright it is in person is why we have found someone is more likely to buy a flashlight in person than online.”

Steve Meitzler, Marketing Director

Where Your Store Has An Advantage

SureFire’s Rosenberg highlighted a strong selling point: “Selling a premium product can often be a challenge for the guy or gal behind the counter. Customers are naturally drawn to lower-priced, seemingly equivalent items, but the challenge can be overcome when there is true value to be offered. Things like 100% U.S. design and manufacturing, time-tested and battle-proven quality and a lifetime warranty in the unlikely event something goes wrong with the light.”

This is where the “buy once, cry once” approach to selling comes into play.

“Most people would prefer to spend a little more if they knew they won’t have to replace it again for a very long time. When a premium product is able to offer this level of value and service to its customers, it makes the decision a no-brainer,” Rosenberg concluded.

Impulse Buys & Instant Gratification

Patrick Cooper, U.S. director of sales for Fenix, said, “Within the world of FFL retail, Fenix is an ‘accessory’ category, offering a series of benefits to the dealer. Number one: There’s the add-on to the standard firearm order that helps increase the sales ticket. There’s the headache-free sale (less than 1% defect rate) for the dealer and the ‘impulse’ sale for the regular customer returning for ammunition. Accessories have long been the secret to adding sales growth with attractive margins in traditional retail. Fenix Lighting plays this part for the FFL.”

As you’ve no doubt experienced: Impulse buys are often price-point driven.

“Our innovative ‘keychain’ products — like the E03R V2.0 — are the gateway models to the brand,” Cooper said. “But in this FFL world, where a standard shotgun can run $500 or more — and a premium can run multiple thousands of dollars — a $100 flashlight with $40 in mounting accessories would qualify as an ‘impulse’ purchase.”

Don’t overlook other simple impulse buys, like a battery bank. You can go to a company like Plum Grove and get an inexpensive solar battery bank with your logo printed on it for as little as $12. So many companies make products like this an entire article could be devoted to them. 

Add-ons are often high-margin items that can significantly benefit your bottom line.

There’s no substitute for being able to ask questions and seeing how much brighter a light is with an actual 1,000 lumens compared to a cheaper one ‘claiming’ it has 1,000 lumens.

Variety & Innovation

With a wide range of flashlights, there’s something for everyone and every need. Customers can get a super bright 1,000-lumen weapon-mounted light (WML) like a Streamlight TLR-1 HL or a purpose-built SureFire Stiletto Pro with a flat design easily able to fit in a pocket for everyday carry.

Today’s consumer is looking for a professional who knows what they’re talking about to guide them to what best fits their needs. Anyone who has worked with enough new shooters will tell you someone should shoot a gun before buying one because many factors are involved. All the options available in a flashlight — like rechargeable batteries, beam patterns, and physical design— can get confusing.

As a firearms instructor, I’ve seen the advantages of having a student try something out instead of just reading about it online. There’s no substitute for being able to ask questions and seeing how much brighter a light is with an actual 1,000 lumens compared to a cheaper one “claiming” it has 1,000 lumens. When you put them side by side, you can immediately tell the difference and see the value in spending a little more money.

Powertac’s Meitzler had this insight: “My best dealers are the ones who have a demo light on display and are passionate about our products. I have some very small stores that sell more than larger ones simply because they have demo lights and love talking about our product. Once a person handles our lights, they tend to sell themselves. And when you mention we have the best lifetime warranty in the industry because as long as they have the light, we will repair or replace it, it becomes a very easy purchase.” 

Another tip to remember that often happens in the firearms industry is we forget the person we’re talking to might not know the basics. We tend to assume a customer knows more than what they do. The downside is we’re missing the opportunity to educate and nurture them into becoming loyal regulars.

Michael Dineen, Streamlight VP of sales and marketing, summed it up: “Streamlight is always looking for dealers who are like us — those who understand what our customers need because they’re out there doing what they do.”

Asking questions will help you determine what is essential and will help you guide the customer to the best solutions for them.

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