Serving A Niche Within A Niche

0

It’s a burden only about 10% of the population is able to bear: left handedness. Fumbling with right-hand gadgets, appliances, desks — even scissors and rulers — is a rite of passage for some 32 million Americans. Lefties who grew up shooting are often more accustomed to operating bolts or single safeties with their non-dominant hand and may even find handling a left-handed firearm (curiously) unnatural.

Thankfully, today there are a number of companies that make SKUs specifically for this disenfranchised group. Savage Arms has emerged as a leader in the left-handed firearms category, with 33 options in its product line — including in the Axis, Trophy Hunter, Rascal and 110 families.

While sales of left-handed products constitute roughly 7–10% of Savage’s total sales, certain offerings generate interest from a higher proportion of left-handed users.

“When you break it down into individual families — like Axis in right-hand and Axis in left-hand or Trophy Hunter in right, Trophy Hunter in left — the total sales vary from 10% at the low end on up to about 33% of that family being left-handed,” said Jessica Treglia, Savage Arms senior brand manager.

Through the Savage Arms Custom Shop, the company has taken it a step further by offering products designed for left-handed women — enabling dealers to serve “a niche within a niche.”

Built around the needs of female hunters, the Lady Hunter debuted in 2012. With a high comb,
12.5" length of pull and 20" light-taper barrel, it’s a comfortable option for women in the field.

Lady Hunter’s Recent Surge

The Lady Hunter, in particular, recently received a significant uptick in interest from left-handed users (pre-COVID-19), according to Effie Sullivan, Savage special orders coordinator (and Savage employee for 45 years!).

“The Lady Hunter is so popular with women because it’s balanced, has a comfortable length of pull (12.5″), high comb and smaller grip — it’s made to fit someone with a smaller stature,” Sullivan said.

Treglia emphasized how the Lady Hunter’s high comb and angled recoil pad combine for a better experience for women out in the field.

“The two most important features on the Lady Hunter are the high comb and angled recoil pad,” Treglia noted. “The high comb is important because women naturally have longer necks, so getting a good sight picture in an optic is extremely difficult — which I’ve learned the hard way. The angled recoil pad also gives a better fit on the collarbone, compared to a standard flat recoil pad.”

Available in four calibers — .243 Win. (1:9.25″ twist), .308 Win. (1:10″ twist), 6.5 Creedmoor (1:8″ twist) and 7mm-08 Rem. (1:9.5″ twist) — the Lady Hunter first debuted in 2012.

“Women’s participation has increased dramatically — which is why Savage developed the Lady Hunter and created the AccuFit system in 2018,” Treglia said. “The AccuFit system isn’t female-specific, but it’s all about fit in general: Not all women fit the same, there are larger-framed women and there are smaller-framed men.”

On the topic of not everyone fitting the same, Sullivan shared it’s not uncommon for men to request the Lady Hunter stock to complement their custom rifle order.

“We’ve actually had a lot of men call in asking for the Lady Hunter stock for use on other guns. It comes back to body shape: If you’re small, this stock fits much better — regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman — and we have a lot of men who are happy with it.”

For now, left-handed Lady Hunters are only available through the Savage
Custom Shop. However, it could become a mainline option for customers.

Custom Shop:How Dealers Benefit

For customers desiring additional customization — like a Lady Hunter in left hand — the Savage Custom Shop is setup to benefit both the consumer and the dealer.

Sullivan described a typical interaction with a customer.

“They’ll call and tell me they were on our website and didn’t see a particular combination they were looking for. Based on what they tell me, I can put something together for them,” she said. “Once we come to a conclusion (i.e., if they want a different barrel, barrel length, barrel taper, twist rate, finish, left-handed controls, etc.), I tell them to give me a contact for their local dealer — and I discuss with the dealer what will be coming to their store.”

Because each order is different, there isn’t a set MSRP — it’s individually priced based on the materials used and whether or not the parts had to be created in-house. In her discussion with the dealer, Sullivan will give the dealer his price and offer a suggested price for the customer. (As you’d expect: The pricing structure is setup to facilitate a good cushion for the dealer.) If the dealer and customer come to an agreement on price, the order is placed with the Custom Shop.

At this point, Sullivan interacts primarily with the dealer. Lead times vary from 6–8 weeks for “standard” orders, and 8–10 weeks for those needing additional fabricated components (like a receiver or barrel modifications).

Even if you’re not a Savage Dealer, it won’t inhibit Savage Custom Shop orders from being available to your customers. Sullivan recalled a lighthearted account of a customer who called with an order because his dealer told him he was “too busy” and would rather simply handle the transfer instead.

“I told the customer we have to go through the dealer, so I offered to contact him directly. When I did, I told him his dealer price compared to the customer price and he went from saying ‘I can’t be bothered’ to realizing the money that can be made,” she shared. (And this isn’t the only such occurrence.)

Going Mainstream?

While the surge in left-handed Lady Hunter requests is notable, it’s often the most sought-after feature from customers across Savage’s other product lines, as well.

“When we review a lot of our customer inquiries for products, the majority of them are going to be left handed — which enables Effie and the Custom Shop team to stock up on what’s highest in demand at the time,” Treglia said.

If a specific combination is frequently requested, the Savage team will evaluate its potential to be added to its regular line of offerings.

“I’ve seen where Effie gets asked the same thing over and over from customers, and she’ll let me know. From there, we’ll decide whether it’s worth putting it in our catalog and selling it on a larger scale.”

The 212/220 Turkey bolt-action shotguns are two recent examples of previous Custom Shop options that were shifted to Savage’s mainline offerings. Treglia shared left-handed Lady Hunter models have the potential to follow suit.

“Our president, Al Kasper, asked me to take a look at adding the Lady Hunter in left hand to the catalog. After talking with Effie, who shared she had to reorder short-action stocks as a result of increased demand, it’s clear we’re selling enough of them to warrant these discussions,” she stated.

Treglia shared the company is still in its evaluation phase of the process. If demand continues to increase, it’s likely left-handed Lady Hunters will become mainline additions.

In the meantime, Effie Sullivan and the Custom Shop team are at the ready to handle unique orders from customers: www.savagearms.com, (413) 568-7001.

Click To Read More Shooting Industry June 2020 Issue Now!