Glow Your Profits!

Flashlights & Weapon-Mounted Lights
Can Make Your Bottom Line Shine
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In today’s economy profits are where you find them, and portable lighting is an easy way to make your bottom line shine. The past year has been harsh on some retailers but beneficial to others. How have the flashlight and gun-light segments fared for firearms retailers during the pandemic? Is now the right time to jump in or boost your shelf stock with lighting products for secondary sales?

We’ll explore these questions with industry experts, get their tips on the hottest sellers as well as thoughts on what the future holds.

Pandemic A Plus

While many businesses dwindled under shutdowns due to the COVID-19 debacle, the firearms industry and those related to survival flourished. Flashlights and gun lights were no exception.

“There’s little doubt once COVID-19 resulted in lockdowns and restrictions in early 2020 we saw a steep rise in sales, especially via e-commerce,” informed Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO). “This continued through the summer and part of it was due to an increase in camping, RV traveling and other outdoor-related activities. This trend has continued over the past year even as many states are seeing a relaxing of restrictions and an increase in vaccination rates.”

“If we’re talking tactical products and buyers, it’s SureFire, Streamlight and Fenix with brands like O-Light and NiteCore coming into the market more and more.”

Andy Skoogman Executive Director PLATO

SIG SAUER FOXTROT1X

Fenix PD36 TAC
Released earlier this year, the Fenix PD36 TAC generates an impressive
output of 3,000 lumens in a compact profile (5.5" in length). Tapping into
the popularity of rechargeable batteries, the PD36 TAC ships with the
Fenix ARB-L21-5000U USB Type-C battery.

Josh Stegall, portable lighting buyer for Vance Outdoors of Lebanon, Ohio, agrees.

“There was an uptick in the sales of all flashlights, regardless of type. The biggest increase for us was in the weapon-mounted flashlight category, as many customers purchasing their first firearms during COVID and civil unrest were looking for a complete package. They could grab the gun and have everything at hand,” he said.

(If the past is any indication, we can expect this trend to continue under the current Biden administration.)

Brand Loyalty

Some firearms owners inherit their preferred brands from a trusted senior family member, others want the latest offerings that come down the pike and there are still others who are guided solely by cost. Is portable lighting the same?

In reference to Vance Outdoors’ customer base Stegall notes, “Novice buyers will base decisions on price, but often will later upgrade. Those with more experience tend to show brand loyalty to the most quality lines. Small things like a lifetime warranty go a long way to creating brand loyalty.”

On the broader market scale, Skoogman suggests brand loyalties are weak.

“Historically there has never been much brand identification or loyalty in flashlights. In the high-end market, whether law enforcement, military or professional/industrial, there is some loyalty but we would describe it as weak at best,” he asserted.

This would seem to contradict Vance Outdoors’ experience but keep in mind, they’ve developed their base over many years.

Vance Outdoors’ Josh Stegall goes over some selling points of the Streamlight TLR-8 A G with a customer.
The gun light boasts 500 lumens, a green laser and an ambidextrous rear switch.

“The big trend in lights seems to be smaller weapon lights to fit the compact 9mms, such as the SIG SAUER P365 and GLOCK 43X/48, which allow the overall package to remain small enough to conceal easily.”

Josh Stegall Portable Lighting Buyer Vance Outdoors

What’s Piping Hot?

Every retailer wants to know what’s flying off the shelves, so we asked our experts.

Vance Outdoors’ Stegall weighs in: “The big trend in lights seems to be smaller weapon lights to fit the compact 9mms, such as the SIG SAUER P365 and GLOCK 43X/48, which allow the overall package to remain small enough to conceal easily.
Automatically adjusting light output based on surface washback is a new technology that could also gain traction.”

“If we’re talking tactical products and buyers, it’s SureFire, Streamlight and Fenix with brands like O-Light and NiteCore coming into the market more and more,” PLATO’s Skoogman added. “But if we’re talking about the wider portable-lighting market, then Energizer, Dorcy/LifeGear and Coleman have leading market penetration in the broad consumer space.”

“In terms of product trends starting in 2019 and accelerating a lot in 2020, all things rechargeable are on the rise,” Skoogman continued. “More and more consumers, especially young consumers, expect electronic devices of all types to be rechargeable. The benefits in terms of operating cost over the life of the product, convenience and environmental impact are all significant and are driving purchase decisions in this direction.”

We asked Skoogman to look in his crystal ball and give us his thoughts on the next-gen happenings in flashlights.

“Barring a revolution in LED technology — which no one at present sees coming anytime soon — the focus of most manufacturers is on power systems, materials and design improvements,” he said. “Greater capacity from all types of batteries and more sophisticated power management systems are the primary focus.”

Blackhawk-Streamlight TLR-HL & TLR-7A FLEX
Blackhawk and Streamlight combined to deliver two tactical lights: the
TLR1-HL and TLR-7A Flex. They’re designed to fit several Blackhawk
holsters, most notably the T-Series.

SureFire XH50 MasterFire WeaponLight
SureFire’s XH50 houses a high-vis green laser and 850-lumen
white light. It pairs with the company’s MasterFire Pro Rapid
Deploy holster.

Teaming Up

We were curious as to whether offering packaged deals such as firearms, lights and other accessories impact sales so we put the question to Vance Outdoors’ Stegall.

“We offer package deals on firearms with various accessories frequently, but we’ve found including some of the popular weapon lights such as Streamlight and SureFire tend to drive the total price point of the package too high, which reduces the response to our advertising,” he informed. “We’ve had better success with lower price-point items such as ammunition, holsters, range bags, magazines and range time keep the package prices lower and have a higher perceived value to the consumer.”

Skoogman added his take. “A bundle, even while offering a discount, can increase overall revenue as it facilitates the upsell,” he stated.

“Markups on portable lights range from 25%–40% depending on the manufacturer, making your bottom line shine even brighter.”

Of course, keep in mind flashlights tend to cost less than gun lights and these can be paired with a firearm as well, even if it’s a small one. There is a plethora of flashlight brands from which to choose, even top names that can be added as a bonus. You can even team flashlights or gun lights with batteries as a value-added purchase.

Last but far from least, markups on portable lights range from 25%–40% depending on the manufacturer, making your bottom line shine even brighter. These profits can slowly add to your profit column day in and day out all year long — and they’re a hot ticket right now. Jump in or beef up your portable lighting program today.

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