Modernize Your Sales Strategy To Reach Customers.
Firearm sales are down compared to 2013. We all know that. Yet, as grim as some reports may be, dealers are still selling firearms — primarily handguns.
“Handguns are selling well, but sporting rifles and shotguns are very slow. Handguns continue to make up 80 percent of my sales,” said Carl Ingrao, owner of Four Seasons Firearms in Woburn, Mass.
“We’ve seen quite a drop-off in the ARs compared to our handgun sales, which still remain strong,” said Jeri Canale, owner of Boom Boom’s Guns & Ammo in Sebring, Fla.
How are these two independent dealers, one well established and the other relatively new on the scene, maintaining respectable handgun sales in two very different geographic locations?
Change With The Times
Boom Boom’s Guns & Ammo opened in April 2011 and added Aim-Right Tactical Training Center & Indoor Shooting Range to its operation this year.
Canale says her customers are buying handguns primarily for personal defense. Boom Boom’s, while a younger retail business, has an active older demographic customer mix.
“My store is in an older neighborhood. We have a high number of senior citizens per capita. They want to protect themselves, and some are first-time gun users at 80 years old. A lot of them are buying revolvers because they are easier to use. Some are buying pistols like the little SIG P238s because they’re easy to rack,” Canale said.
Canale is no newcomer to her community, and she’s a savvy businesswoman. The Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce recently named Boom Boom’s Small Business of the Year.
“We were up against heavy competitors, and we beat them out in growth of industry. They consider us to be the innovators in the area to create new business. That’s pretty cool,” Canale said.
Part of that innovation is a huge online presence.
“We’ve added an online store, which has helped us quite a bit. It’s one of the largest [online] stores in the U.S. You’ve got to change with the times. If you look at any major corporation, a lot of their sales are now done online,” Canale said.
The North American Arms Sidewinder .22 Magnum Rimfire is a top-seller at
Boom Boom’s Guns & Ammo thanks to its diminutive size and five-shot cylinder capacity.
Smith & Wesson BODYGUARD 380
Gun Department Store
Canale and Boom Boom’s are vital players in their community.
“I used to be in county politics as a commissioner, so a lot of people know me,” Canale said. “It’s important for customers to be able to trust a vendor. For me, this has been a lifetime of building trust. We’re leaders in the community, and we give to the community. We do turkey shoots for charity and gun raffles for the chambers of commerce. We make the community aware we’re in business to help them. We even hold voter registration here.”
While Canale says her store’s overall revolver sales are down, they are moving decent numbers of semiauto pistols. Some of her top sellers are the Glock 42 and the Smith & Wesson BODYGUARD 380. In revolvers, Canale says customers often are looking for something different, like the Ruger Bearcat and the NAA Sidewinder .22 Magnum Rimfire.
Boom Boom’s also serves a good customer base of women, and cuts across the demographic spectrum.
“We have school teachers, nurses and professional women who travel. They go to our concealed-carry classes, and they feel confident. We have a strong commitment to women shooters. Our store is very open; it’s not like a bunker. It feels like a gun department store. We make it a friendlier kind of place,” Canale said.
Boom Boom’s combines the feel of a mom-and-pop store, while remaining current and more widely accessible through its online and social media presence.
“When we have .22 or .380 ammo in, or if we have a new, hard-to-get gun that’s arrived, we post it on our social media networks. Within minutes people are coming into the store. We email folks information about our sales. You have to be cognizant of what’s going on and keep up. Change if you have to. You do what you need to do to get people inside your store,” Canale said.
Canale says Boom Boom’s is committed to making sure all of its customers feel comfortable.
“If someone has a question, we are always nearby. We try to match the person with what they are purchasing and make them feel comfortable with it. We use dry fire to get them over the fear of handling the gun, especially women. We never push anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. We encourage them. Usually, within five or 10 minutes, they are comfortable handling the handgun we’ve put into their hands,” Canale said.
Featured specials appear on the homepage of Boom Boom’s website, allowing
customers to easily view a list of the latest promotions.
Back To Selling
Carl Ingrao is well known to his customers and the Woburn, Mass., community; he purchased Four Seasons Firearms in 1995. Traditionally a strong seller of modern sporting rifles, he says that business has tailed off, while his handgun business remains decently brisk.
“Compact and subcompact pistols are our number-one bestsellers. Mid- and full-size pistols for the range or home are second. Our third-bestsellers are small five-shot .38 revolvers,” Ingrao.
In what Ingrao calls “sub-subcompacts,” his top-seller is Smith & Wesson’s BODYGUARD 380.
“In the compact size, the Smith & Wesson SHIELD is far and away the number-one bestseller,” Ingrao said. “I can’t sell the LCP .380 from Ruger [because of Massachusetts law], but it’s my understanding that it’s their bestselling subcompact. The Ruger SR9c, ‘c’ for compact, is the bestseller in that size,” Ingrao said.
In mid- and full-size pistols, his top sellers are Smith & Wesson’s M&P 4 1/4-inch model. In the Ruger line, his bestseller is the SR9.
Like Boom Boom’s, Ingrao says most of Four Seasons’ handgun sales are for personal defense.
Four Seasons held a Tax-Free Shopping Day in August that increased the store’s handgun unit sales by 25 percent over last year, though profits were down. He speculated a couple reasons for this were better availability of product this year allowed him to sell more and aggressive pricing and package deals motivated customers to buy.
A bestseller at Four Seasons, the Ruger SR9 features a slim, ergonomic
grip and narrow slide. It’s available in a stainless or alloy steel
frame with 10+1 or 17+1 capacities.
It Really Works
“The days of selling product by virtue of just being open are gone for now. We are back to promoting and marketing regularly, aka selling. Also, for the first time in several years, we experienced the traditional industry business cycle of sales slowing down during the June, July and August summer months,” Ingrao said.
Ingrao was among the first firearm dealers to utilize email blasts effectively as an advertising tool, something he recommends to all dealers.
“I send out an email every Thursday to 24,800 people who have subscribed to it. They love it. Even if they’re not buying anything that week, they like to know what’s going on, what’s happening. When they’re in the mood to buy something, they think of that guy who sends them an email every Thursday. It really does work. I don’t think enough dealers stay in contact with their customers,” Ingrao said.
Ingrao also realized early on the need to get on board with a website.
“My website is not fancy, but it’s updated all the time, and that’s very important. The majority of the people who walk into the store know what they want already, because they’ve done all their research online,” Ingrao said.
Ingrao also has increased his social media reach to customers.
“This past year I started using Twitter because it gets an instant response. When I have a truck pull up and it’s being unloaded — say a big shipment of ammo — I pull up the Twitter app on my phone and send out a message: ‘Arrived just minutes ago. 9mm. $14.99 for box of 50.’ I click “Tweet” and it goes out to 4,000 people. Sometimes within minutes, customers driving by the area will stop by the store. It’s incredible,” he said.
Four Seasons sends out a weekly email advertising promotions to
24,800 subscribers, which has effectively strengthened sales.
Don’t Be A Secret
What additional advice do Ingrao and Canale have for independent dealers looking to inject some life back into their handgun sales?
“First,” Ingrao said, “and I’ve said this over the years — you must have an Internet presence; at the minimum, a website. It’s a necessity. Stay in touch with your customers by social media or direct email. For sales incentives, I use packages: Buy this and get that for free. For example, buy a BODYGUARD 380 and we’ll throw in a pocket holster and a pack of targets. It’s much better than giving a deeper discount on the gun. Customers like packages, and they work very well for us.”
Canale says dealers often stop reaching out to customers when sales drop.
“When you’re not doing well, the best thing to do is advertise. We do a local radio talk show once a month. We also do print advertising in magazines. Those may include coupons. We keep our website and Facebook page active. We also use Twitter and Google+. You have to always get your name out there and remind people you’re open for business. You shouldn’t be the best-kept secret,” she said.
Visit www.fsguns.com and www.boomboomguns.com
By Greg Staunton
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