After The Pandemic Rush … Now What?

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During this unprecedented time of pandemic and social unrest, lines at the counter have been a common sight — like
here at Hyatt Guns in Charlotte, N.C. Proper education, training and safety resources are especially pertinent today.

It became nationwide — even worldwide — news: In the first few weeks of COVID-19’s spread throughout the U.S., people who had never thought they’d need a gun suddenly rushed to their local firearms retailer to buy one.

The media called it panic buying, and even some of our own gun people did. This is one of the first things we need to sort out now if we haven’t already: It wasn’t panic; it was logic finally hitting them. The government and mass media were telling them the pandemic was calling for a massive emptying of jails and prisons for the very real reason such environments were indeed petri dishes for breeding and spreading the virus. Those same sources told them police departments, like Detroit’s, were down 20% in manpower, and were cutting down on proactive patrols. The public read it for what it was: more criminals, fewer cops and we were being told by trusted sources, it’s gonna get worse!

So, no, not panic. Logic! And it’s something to remember when the reporter from the local paper or radio station calls you for a comment about it.

In the meantime, we have a large new crop of gun owners. We know as soon as they’re not scared anymore, some of them are going to want to dump their guns. How many of those new buyers asked you “What’s your return policy?” I rest my case.

That factor notwithstanding, right now all these first-time gun owners have a gun in their house. They’ve adjusted to it, at least to some degree. What do you do to keep from losing these new gun owners?

The answer lies in two words: Follow up!

What’s Needed

For all of us in the firearms industry, our first concern with the influx of new owners was safety. Flooded with urgently demanding customers, gun retailers had no time at all to set up safety classes — particularly at a time when schools were being closed, gatherings of all kinds (including adult education seminars) were being cancelled and millions of Americans were losing their jobs and had more pressing matters to attend to. But now, as the nation has adjusted to its “new reality,” there’s both time and opportunity.

New gun owners are going to need more accessories than ammo. Safes, lock boxes, ear and eye protection. Safety classes. Advanced training classes. Remind these new gun owners of waiting periods and everything they had to deal with in many states to purchase their first firearm. Do they want to go through it again, or maybe take a CCW class from you right now, to be prepared for the next step in their gun-owning journey or for the next potential large-scale emergency?

Jack and Michelle Pickett, owners of Pickett Armory in Newberry, Fla. and Harry Beckwith’s Gun Shop in nearby Micanopy, discussed how their store’s training offerings have been affected by COVID-19.

“Our regular classes were shut down by the social distancing closure. We’ve been trying to encourage new buyers to sign up for individual classes, one-on-one instructor/student,” Jack shared. “The clientele seem to be somewhat more receptive to individualized instruction because of everything going on. Usually, only one or two out of a hundred gun buyers will sign up for training but in the current environment, it’s more like 10–15%. We’re seeing a lot more people sign up for one-on-one advanced training, too.”

Michelle added, “We’re sending out emails on training videos, range etiquette, gun safety and notification of classes, as well.”

The Picketts noted a very large percentage of first-time buyers were purchasing shotguns.

Jack remarked, “As to handguns, we’re selling just about everything. The customer who did some online research and came in wanting to buy an inexpensive ST9 doesn’t seem to have any problem, when those are out of stock, paying $200 extra to purchase a GLOCK 19.”

Remote Opportunities

To go beyond one-on-one in the social distancing environment, remote training is the key. Another Florida business, Okeechobee Shooting Sports, hosted a webinar on the state’s gun and self-defense laws taught by Attorney Alan Diamond. He’s associated with the United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA). Okeechobee Shooting Sports sent out an email blast to their customers, which allowed them to register for the approximately one-hour lecture at no charge. (Diamond, it should be noted, also did the lecture at no charge as a public service.)

Can your business do this, no matter what state you may be located in? Talk to the developer of your business website. You may find it easier and more cost-effective than most people think. Such a webcast can be deemed a public service announcement. And it associates your business with education and responsibility.

The firearm is the very icon of
power and responsibility. When you
sell the power, it makes sense
to sell the responsibility.

You can also simply send out an email blast to your customers with links to firearms safety and self-defense videos. The Polite Society Podcast group recently assembled several of us who work in the firearms and self-defense training fields to record a series of 10-minute videos on topics such as safe firearms manipulation, storage of guns in the home, introducing firearms into a home where children live and related topics. The series is called “Guns 101.” You can find them at https://bit.ly/3dI82rt.

There are many other such resources. Your new flock of customers will remember your business is the source that brought this needed new knowledge to them.

Broadening Your Message Locally

The wave of new gun buyers during the pandemic was worldwide news. Your local newspaper, even if editors and publishers are anti-gun, should be aware of this. Send them a news release (send it not just to the editor but the columnist or specialist editor who’s in charge of their outdoor sports section) and hopefully, they’ll publish it. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t, but they definitely won’t if you don’t send them the release. (Don’t forget to leverage your social media footprint, as well, for promotion.)

The firearm is the very icon of power and responsibility. When you sell the power, it makes sense to sell the responsibility. It’s not just good for business; it’s socially responsible marketing in action.

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