2024: The Year Of Technology


Image: Gasi / Adobe Stock

The undisputed catch term of early 2024 is “AI” (Artificial Intelligence). I’m sure some of you have spent some time going down a rabbit hole with ChatGPT or other online AI bots just to see what the buzz is all about. While tech like this is a novelty to most, the idea of technology making our businesses more efficient and profitable is nothing new — though it’s often overlooked.

With profit margins continuing to shrink and compress in the first quarter of 2024, we need to lean on technology more than ever to squeeze out those extra profits we so desperately need.


Get Your POS Up To Date

One thing the proper use of technology can do better than anything else is to make us more time efficient. The costs of payroll have continued to increase, and it’s becoming more difficult to find quality employees. Technology can absolutely help us “do more with less” and make our teams more productive. 

Let us focus on a point-of-sale system (POS), for starters. Many stores out there in my travels are still utilizing simple (read: low-tech) means of inputting their inventory into their POS System. The old way of finding the invoice — counting the products in the box to make sure you received the right items and quantities, hand-entering them into the POS, finding the pricing gun and slapping a price on each and every box … lather, rinse, repeat — can be a massively time-consuming process. It might also cause your shop to miss a sale because you didn’t get the product out into the showroom when a customer was looking for it.

By leveraging the technology already baked into most POS systems, you could have had your vendor create a purchase order (PO), download the PO into your system and, after the shipment arrives, simply reconcile what you were supposed to get matches what you did get. It’s as simple as hitting a few keys, and boom — all the new items are in your POS System. 

Take it to the next level and have shelf tags for pricing of product and you won’t even need to print out pricing labels. What used to take hours can now be accomplished in minutes — freeing up your shipping clerk to do other productive things to benefit your business.

Go Paperless!

Paperwork, in general, can be a massively time-consuming facet of every business. The firearms industry is additionally burdened with compliance paperwork that increases the workload of managing critical data to a level most other forms of retail do not have to manage. 

In today’s operations there is zero justification for not processing 4473 paperwork electronically. By doing so, you can streamline the process, minimize errors and take a huge chunk of the headache out of managing firearm compliance paperwork.

I remember the days of having two, three, even four employees double-check physical 4473s just to be sure we didn’t forget to cross a “t” or dot an “i.” Sad to say even then there were errors missed or mistakes that squeezed past the most scrutinous eyes. By using technology, we not only make the process easier and faster but far more accurate. 

With the current focus on data accuracy by the ATF, leveraging technology to minimize errors can go a long way toward helping retailers sleep better at night knowing their business is less at risk. 

On top of this, not only does an electronic system improve our data accuracy, it also allows an operation to manage data in a far more time-efficient manner. And we all know the simple equation of time equals money.

Data Insights

Another area in which technology can help us become better retailers is through data insights. Leveraging data to make critical business decisions is more important than ever for retail businesses. 

There are untold numbers of ways to collect and process retail data today, be it via store level data derived from POS systems, customer data collected through range waivers, industry level sales data from sources like Gearfire’s RetailBI or NASGW SCOPE and even proprietary data from services like Southwick Associates.

Information such as market price, hot products, customer segmentation, economic data, seasonality and more not only can help us be timelier in our business decisions but can help us leverage our business dollars in more efficient and profitable ways. 

There are six key pillars to running a successful retail business:

1. Your customer must be able to find you.

2. Your customer must know what you sell.

3. Your customer must be able to find where the product is in your store. 

4. The product must be presented in a logical and presentable way. 

5. You must have the product in stock at the right time. 

6. You must have the product for sale at the right price. 

Without leveraging quality data to make concise decisions on all six pillars, you may fail to succeed at one or more of these facets and lose out on critical sales. Data can make those decisions more accurate and make your business more profitable.

Every Point Matters

Just think for a moment: if we leverage the technology we already have operating in our store today to its greatest extent, the following can happen: we can reduce payroll by 2% after improving staff productivity and improve retail margins by an additional 2% — which would add four points of margin to our bottom line!

For many shops reading this, an extra four points of bottom-line profit percentage may improve your profits by 30–50%. And this is without doing a single dollar more of business in 2024.

Make 2024 the year you use technology to determine the level of success your business achieves this year — because, as we all know, election years are highly unpredictable! 

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