Glock, AcuSport Partner With 100 Dealers In New Pistol Launch
By Tim Barker
GLOCK G17 Gen5
On a Saturday morning in late August, the crew at Accuracy Firearms came into work three hours early to take part in an unusual marketing event.
The store, in Effingham, Ill., was one of 100 selected from around the nation to take part in GLOCK’s official unveiling of its new Gen5 line of pistols. The stores were each given early access to the new GLOCK 17s and 19s — a full five days ahead of the rest of the world.
It was an opportunity for those shops to dream up special promotions and to capture some extra attention in their local markets. For the team at Accuracy, the early opening was just part of it. Leading up to the event, they did live interviews with a local radio station. They posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They sent out emails, used in-store advertising and put up fliers at other local businesses. And they worked with a local bank to advertise on electronic billboards scattered around town.
“We tried to use everything. You name it, we did it,” said Kurt Davis, one of the store’s owners.
The blitz worked. They pulled in more than 150 extra customers that morning, with people traveling from up to 100 miles away to see what all the fuss was about. “We had people stacked at the door waiting to get in at 7:00 a.m.,” he said.
Throughout the three-hour unveiling event, they had drawings every 15 minutes, giving away T-shirts, hats, backpacks, assorted GLOCK items and several hundred dollars in gift cards. They had about 60 people shoot the new guns on the store’s range. And by the end of the day, most of Accuracy’s allotment of 18 guns was out the door.
“Having something like that really drove people into the store,” Davis shared. “Most of those faces I’ve never seen in my store before.”
A Welcome Unveiling
It’s just what Doug VanderWoude was hoping to hear. He’s the director of the range program and business consultant for Ohio-based AcuSport, where he’s been pushing for seven years to make a launch like this one become reality.
Over the years, he says, new product introductions have been carried out very similarly — with not much preferential treatment offered to the gun stores that serve as the backbone to the distribution system.
Consider, he says, what typically happens when a new gun is introduced. There are three different dealers: One sells out of his garage. Another runs an online business. And the third has a large retail shop.
“When that new firearm comes out, they all have the same chance of getting it,” VanderWoude informed. “We kept telling the manufacturers they needed to treat the storefront retailers differently.”
With GLOCK’s Gen5 rollout, the company worked with AcuSport to select 100 retail shops around the nation to get an early preview with the gun. Each shop was able to purchase 18 of the Gen5s to sell and a couple more for their rental programs.
“I give GLOCK all the credit in the world,” he said. “They were the first trial run for this.”
VanderWoude said the feedback from GLOCK has been positive following a launch event with a lot of advanced advertising by the gun stores.
“On their end, they didn’t have any real expense,” he said. “They didn’t need to make the videos or buy the airtime for the ads.”
A crowd of anxious shooters awaits the launch of the GLOCK Gen5 at Accuracy Firearms in Effingham, Ill.
The store carriedout a multi-faceted media blitz in the build-up to the event, which led to first-time
visits from customers up to 100 miles away.
Fanfare Ignites Sales
Not surprisingly, the idea of giving brick-and-mortar stores first crack at a new gun goes over quite well with the people who own those stores. But there’s sound reasoning for this sort of benefit, argues Rex Gore, owner of Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware, Ohio.
“We bring more new shooters into the industry than anybody,” said Gore, who decided to stay open past midnight the day before the unveiling — so he could be among the first in the nation to start selling the new gun.
“We had all kinds of games and activities going on,” he said. “We had about 80 people here at midnight.”
For GLOCK, Gore thinks the strategy was a smart one, particularly at a time when everyone is fighting for market share: “It’s kind of the opposite of what other manufacturers will do with new products. They just show up without any fanfare.”
Of course, not everyone felt the need to do something out of the ordinary for the launch. It was pretty much business as usual at Ultimate Defense Firing Range & Training Center in St. Peters, Mo. It wasn’t an elaborate launch. They used Facebook posts and an email to their customer list, reaching roughly 70,000 people. And they offered a “test-drive” program for two days — allowing customers to fire five rounds for free.
“We didn’t really have to promote it in any crazy fashion,” said Paul Bastean, managing director for the store, which has a strong GLOCK customer base.
On a typical Saturday, they might have five to 10 people milling around outside waiting for the doors to open. On that Saturday, they had about 30. And by the end of the day, most of their guns were sold. “By Sunday, all the guns were gone,” Bastean relayed.
Two days later, they sold off the last of the follow-up order.
Black Wing Shooting Center (Delaware, Ohio) stayed open past midnight on the day of the GLOCK Gen5 reveal. Owner Rex Gore shared about 80 people remained in his store so they could be among the first in the nation to test-fire GLOCK’s new release.
A Sign Of More To Come?
Will an event like this be anything more than a short-term sales bump? Bastean and the other storeowners think it will. He can see the evidence in the shop’s Facebook traffic.
On a typical day, they’ll pick up a few “likes” on the store’s page. On the day of the unveiling, Ultimate Defense picked up nearly 250, followed by another 300 or so the next week. They also added nearly 80 people to their newsletter list.
“There were a lot of people with loyalty to other shops,” Bastean said. “We may or may not have converted them to customers. But at least we had the opportunity to make the attempt.”
Perhaps the bigger issue is whether this marketing event could serve as a template for other manufacturers to follow. VanderWoude is hopeful. And he’d like to see it expand to 200 stores for the next one.
“I think it’s going to grow,” he said. “Hopefully, it will become the industry standard.”
Gore said he’s interested in doing more launches. The only thing he would change is the secrecy. He suspects the event lost a little of its luster when early photos of the Gen5 guns leaked out ahead of time, sort of ruining the surprise. Otherwise, this could be the template going forward.
And it certainly beats the old system where new guns are announced, but not available for several months. “The key is getting the product built and into the distribution network so it’s ready when it’s announced,” he added.
What are your thoughts on this type of new product launch? Do you think it can provide a long-term boost? Let us know how you think your store would fare at firstname.lastname@example.org.