Make Use Of In-Store Events,
Steady Sellers To Boost Profits
By Tim Barker
Every other month, the folks at Arnzen Arms put on some sort of store event designed to give customers a new reason, other than the typical browsing, to drop by the store in Eden Prairie, Minn.
These events, promoted through an email list and on local radio, often revolve around a manufacturer like GLOCK or SIG SAUER. But in March, they set up a competition expo — a day for customers to come in and learn more about action shooting sports with a heavy emphasis on handguns.
It’s the kind of promotion that can bring in several hundred (more than 1,000 on a good day) extra customers.
“We plan on the events being a fun thing. But the sales are usually pretty good,” said Dan Arnzen, who owns the store with his wife, Kate Arnzen.
This particular event also represents one of the strategies the four-year-old store has employed to cultivate the local handgun market. With the store’s owners and some staffers being avid competition shooters, they’ve always catered to the market. Of course, as any gun shop owner knows, you aren’t going to pay the bills by selling guns and accessories to USPSA, IDPA and cowboy action shooters.
But there are other hidden benefits, suggests Kate Arnzen. In much the same way police officers are viewed, serious competition shooters are often looked upon by friends and coworkers as firearms experts.
“The competition shooters end up being advocates for the shop,” she said. And advocacy can lead to more sales in key segments of self-defense and conceal carry.
S&W M&P 2.0
Springfield TRP Tactical
Historically, two manufacturers have dominated the store’s handgun sales, with the GLOCK 19, GLOCK 43, SIG 226 and SIG 229 series among the best sellers. Other customer favorites include the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, Walther PPS M2 and the DVC line of 1911/2011s from STI.
The store isn’t expecting any major shakeups this year, at least not based on what they witnessed at SHOT Show in January. Certainly, they saw some interesting new handguns announced before and during the event. Arnzen carries a lot of CZ products, so the manufacturer’s first striker-fired gun — the P-10 — is drawing interest from customers in the way of early orders. Smith & Wesson also brought out the M&P 2.0, the latest in the line of popular handguns.
But neither of those guns is expected to make much of a dent in GLOCK’s dominance of the local market segment, said Jason Gentz, the shop’s manager. “I think the GLOCK will always be the flagship striker-fired gun,” he shared. “I don’t see it going away.”
One firearm with potential, they say, is the SIG P320 — fresh off the announcement it has been chosen to replace the Beretta M9 as the official U.S. Army sidearm. The modular platform was already a popular choice for customers. And this popularity will only grow as more people begin to associate it with the Army. It’s something that’ll happen slowly, as the gun starts popping up in video games, television shows and movies. “You’ll see it after a couple movies come out with Army guys carrying the guns,” Dan Arnzen added.
Beretta USA Tomcat
Coming out of SHOT Show, it was clear dealers will have a considerable amount of new offerings for customers. Some are novel, including Colt’s return to the double-action revolver business by way of its new Cobra. And there’s the intriguing Hudson H9 — an all-steel, striker-fired gun, which has drawn strong interest from consumers.
And then there are a host of tweaks and new finishes for existing guns, with the goal of broadening their appeal to a wide range of gun buyers. Part of this effort is geared toward female shooters, and the industry has done a solid job of making guns more attractive to this important demographic, according to Richard Sprague, longtime owner of Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz.
“But not a lot are doing as much as they could to make them easier to operate,” Sprague added.
His shop does a lot of business with snowbirds and retirees with second homes in the area. Often, he watches as elderly and female customers are forced to modify shopping choices based on the simple fact many guns aren’t easy to operate for weaker-handed people.
For instance, he said, many double-action revolvers come with trigger pulls that essentially eliminate them from consideration for some buyers.
“We see it all the time,” Sprague shared. “The revolver makes a lot of sense. But they’ve got to be able to operate it.”
He’s developed his own personal list of go-to guns for these types of shoppers. Among them is the redesigned Smith & Wesson Bodyguard in .38 Special, which features a significantly reduced trigger pull when compared to the original J-Frame. Sprague also likes the Ruger LCR and Charter Arms Off Duty.
In semi-automatics, he’s partial to the Walther PK380 and PPQ, as well as guns with tip-up barrels — such as the Beretta Tomcat.
Each of them fits well into today’s expanding conceal-carry market. He sees no reason for it to change, particularly with talk of nationwide reciprocity for CCW.
“Our customer base has grown and people are moving in that direction,” Sprague added.
Arnzen Arms co-owner Kate Arnzen and shop manager Jason Gentz in the
Eden Prairie, Minn., store. Arnzen Arms hosts in-store events to drive
interest among consumers throughout the year.
“Back To The Basics” In Post-Election Environment
Same as everyone else in the business, Arnzen Arms is curious to see what a post-Obama firearms retail market looks like. Having only been in business for four years, all the store knows is a landscape marked by fear-based buying binges and accompanying shortages.
Arnzen saw a significant boost in sales leading up to the November presidential election, with sales slacking off a bit after Donald Trump’s victory. And so it seems likely the days of sales spiking in response to dramatic shootings and calls for more gun control are, at least for now, a thing of the past.
“We’ve only existed in this market,” Dan Arnzen relayed. “But we’ve never intentionally tried to take advantage of it. We don’t keep a backroom full of 30-round mags and cheap MSRs waiting for that day to happen.”
In Arizona, Sprague has watched Democratic and Republican administrations come and go over his store’s 61-year history. He bought the store from his father in 1984. He has a good idea of what to expect this year. And things may be more difficult for some shops.
“It’s not going to be fear-infused business. Everyone will need to earn their piece of the pie by being good business people,” Sprague said. “It’s going to be back to the basics.”