Ramp Up Your
Summer Sales Events


Image: forafontova / Adobe Stock

Summer can often be a slow time in the firearms business, which can be a little stressful. But it’s also a season to do some fun and creative things you don’t have time to do during the rest of the busy year. So how can you get more people into your store or range during the summer besides just having sales?

Ask yourself, what do people like to do in the summer? BBQs, parties, games. You could go with a specific theme, such as a Hawaiian luau. Give out prizes for the best Hawaiian look. Or perhaps you’ve noticed the people in your town will go to any event that gives out hot dogs. Then offer hot dogs during a sales promotion! 

You could hold a tournament, such as cornhole, and award prizes. Hold a “celebrity” shoot fundraiser with local politicians, law enforcement or other popular citizens in your area. Or how about providing free, short, one-hour workshops or speakers on various topics. How about live demonstrations of various products?

Seek Out Input

Do you know for sure what your customers want? Instead of guessing, get their input. 

When you are in the planning process, ask your customers what they would like. You can hand out a paper survey at the store and also email a survey to everyone on your customer mailing list. People love being asked their opinion. Make sure to include the opportunity to win a gift card as an incentive for completing the survey. Then follow up with a survey after the event.

People also love to give constructive feedback if it’s made clear their opinion is truly valuable and used to improve your service. Again, offer a chance to win a gift card as an incentive to complete the survey.

What You Can Do With Both
Range/Retail Space

Tim Shoopman, director of brand communications at H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City, talks about a very successful event they hold annually.

“Every July, we hold what we call our ‘Annual Summer Expo.’ We’ve held it for over 20 years. It’s typically a two- or three-day event where we invite all of our manufacturing and factory reps. The reps bring samples and products to demo. Customers get to test shoot as many guns as they want. It’s kind of a ‘try it before you buy it’ event,” he explained.

H&H Shooting Sports also offers discounts during the event, according to Shoopman. 

“Our discounts are essentially the same as our Black Friday discounts. Everybody really likes having the discounts available twice a year,” he informed.

Shoopman shared the event was suspended for two years due to the pandemic, then in 2021 they simply didn’t have enough stock. Finally, they were able to bring it back in 2022. 

“Everyone was really happy to bring it back. We had a great turnout and it was just a really nice return back to some normalcy,” he recalled.

When trying to come up with ideas to pull in those harder-to-reach customers, think about what draws you to other businesses.

What You Can Do With
Standalone Retail Space

Several years ago, on the way back home to Washington from a trip to Yellowstone, my family and I were passing through Ennis, Mont., when we came upon a crowded section of town with a lot of cars parked everywhere and people roaming around. It looked like a major traffic jam in a town of only a few blocks. It piqued our curiosity, so we stopped to check it out.

We discovered a sporting goods store, Shedhorn Sports, was having a major event called the “Hunter’s Rendezvous & Sale.” There were sales vendors and all kinds of activities.

One very memorable demonstration was a fake bear on a track. Attendees stood in front of the bear and pushed a lever. The bear suddenly moved like a bolt of lightning toward them on the track, simulating the speed at which bears move. 

People tend to think bears are big and slow and they’d just be able to outrun them, but this showed it wouldn’t be the case at all. It was very eye-opening. All these years later we still remember the unique event and how much fun it was.

Melissa Glaser, the owner of Shedhorn Sports since 2021, explains the event started in the 1990s when the store was a hardware store with a gun section. The founder of Shedhorn Sports, Rob Gallentine, worked behind the gun counter and decided to hold a fun sales event to give back to the community, so he moved all the firearms to the local high school. 

“It eventually became a street sale, so we basically take up the street in front of our store,” Glaser explained. “We started with one tent and now we’re up to three tents, so it expands our entire shopping area. We have about 6,000 sq. ft. of shopping space inside and it almost doubles it outside.”

The store advertises extensively to make it an impactful event — not only for Ennis, but the surrounding region,  too.

“We advertise from Bozeman to Butte, and Helena to Idaho Falls, so we normally have a good draw during the year anyway just for our gun inventory and everything else the store has to offer, but this event really draws people in,” she continued.

Glaser estimates around 4,000 customers visit the store during the “rendezvous.” As with other retailers, business suffered with the pandemic and supply chain issues so this year will be the first time holding the event since 2019. 

“The event can be a little hard on staff at times just because of how much goes into it. But when we talked about not having it, the pushback from customers and even our vendors was so big that we just had to continue it. It’s just something people love. Even before I owned this store, I loved it,” smiled Glaser.

“One of the big bonuses is having our vendors there, which I think is what makes it successful,” she added. “It expands our workforce. We have the vendors from basically every firearm we have in the store and they’re here helping to sell those firearms — so it expands our workforce by double or triple. Plus, our vendors love the event as well; they feel like they’re around friends.”

To show appreciation, Glaser also provides a barbecue on Friday night for all the staff and vendors working the event.

This year the event will have over 30 vendors representing over 45 lines of participating product. For the first time, they will also be adding a speaker’s tent, with presentations on how to have a safe and successful hunt. They even hint at having some pack llamas to see. 

Another way they are guaranteeing a good turnout is by offering a special giveaway for the first 50 customers in line.

“We’re going to have a big comeback this year, it’s very exciting,” Glaser beamed.

“We have the vendors from basically every firearm we have in the store and they’re here helping to sell those firearms — so it expands our workforce by double or triple.”

Melissa Glaser, Owner
Shedhorn Sports • Ennis, Montana.

Other Idea Generators

Finally, when trying to come up with ideas to pull in those harder-to-reach customers, think about what draws you to other businesses. Is it food? Is it discounts? Is it prizes? Is it fun activities? Is it family-friendly activities? Is it getting to try new things?

Chances are, the things that will drive you to go shopping at your favorite furniture store, home decorating emporium or outdoor retailer are exactly what will draw others to your establishment. 

Wherever you go, pay attention and take notes. Before long you’ll start seeing a pattern that fits your needs, and one you’ll want to replicate.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel — just glean some good ideas. Remember you don’t have to do it all: Start small and build it until it’s what you want.


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