In The Spotlight: Flashlight Sales

Create Your Advantage By Stocking Lights For Every Niche.

Advances in LED and battery technology in the past few years have turned the flashlight industry on its head — in a very good way. Not only do LED bulbs outlive their predecessors, a new generation of batteries has seen usage and shelf life drastically extended as well, which has brought significant improvements in brightness and beam reach. These are hot times for flashlights as consumers ditch their outdated models for newer ones, presenting an excellent opportunity for retailers like you to rake in the profits.

There are a variety of factors that can distinguish one flashlight from another, such as its overall size, lumen strength, outward beam length, battery run time, type of battery used, waterproof ability and impact resistance. Helping customers choose the right flashlight for their needs cuts down on returns and makes for happy, long-term customers.

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At Mark’s Outdoors, a Fenix display is positioned at the entrance of the store —
providing customers with an easy access point to handle flashlights.

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Bushnell recently added four new rechargeable lights to the Rubicon line,
including a 125-lumen headlamp. The headlamp has five different lighting
modes, tilt adjustment, a USB charging cable and a charging indicator.

Knowledge Sells Flashlights

Mark’s Outdoors in Hoover, Ala., sells flashlights in abundance to their customers, which includes local law enforcement and self-defense customers to hunters and sport shooters. To Vaughn Jones, Mark’s Outdoors sales representative, the advantage LEDs have over other bulbs is clear.

“LED bulbs in flashlights have been a huge success for us. Virtually every flashlight we sell now has LED bulbs. They offer a brighter, whiter light and have a much longer working life than older type bulbs. It has been very important for our sales staff to stay up-to-date on LED technology.”

Educating your sales staff on the newest advances in flashlights will equip them in educating your customers. Buyers thrive on information and are more likely to purchase from an informed source than one who doesn’t have the knowledge. Dealers shouldn’t assume customers will always get their information off the manufacturer’s website or retail packaging. Rather, educate them on what they’re getting for their money.

“The best way to sell a flashlight is by displaying it prominently and showing your customer how the light and its various functions operate. They’ll usually buy it right out of your hand,” Jones observed.

This illustrates an advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have over their online counterparts: Dealers have the ability to put the product into the hands of the customer and extol its virtues to close a sale.

When it comes to brands that sell well, Jones said his store’s most popular brands are SureFire, Streamlight and Fenix.

“Typically we sell a lot more Streamlight and Fenix, but SureFire is still a very popular brand for us.” When I visited Mark’s Outdoors, they had a very effective Fenix display, which was placed right at the entryway of the store, making it instantly visible to customers.

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Designed with camping enthusiasts in mind, the 300-lumen ThermaCELL Camp
Lantern can protect a 225-square-foot area from mosquitoes and can be used
for 50 hours on its highest setting.

Options And More Options

Flashlights vary widely in size, power and functional options. Hand-held flashlights can be categorized into two basic groups: tactical and sporting. While most of the emphasis has been on the tactical market since the technology surge from wars in the Middle East, there has always been a demand from hunters, campers and other outdoorsmen for lights that fit their needs. If your store has a mix of both tactical and sporting users, stock both accordingly. Mark’s Outdoors, for instance, has close to a 50/50 customer base of tactical versus sporting shooters.

“I’d say our customer base is close to half-tactical and half-sporting, with a slight edge toward tactical flashlights selling well,” Jones said. “Our customers seem to want the brightest flashlight for tactical and hunting purposes — and many of our tactical flashlights offer a little more of that.”

Gun-mounted flashlights are an increasing market in the industry and should be taken into consideration when you’re buying for your store. Keep in mind many hand-held lights can be adapted to firearms with mounting systems designed for dual use.

“We sell quite a few more hand-held flashlights than we do gun-mounted ones. Especially since many ‘tactical’ style flashlights can be fitted into either a universal or gun-specific mount,” Jones added.

When looking to purchase a flashlight, customers will usually look at its size. In fact, it’s probably the first thing they think of when determining their needs. Unfortunately there’s no way to predict whether a customer will want a large, medium or small light before they come into your store. Those who carry backpacks most often prefer small lights to reduce weight, while for others who drive SUVs to camp tend to prefer larger ones. Consequently, it’s to a retailer’s advantage to stock all sizes.

If your store offers a variety of finishes on different models of lights, your store will have an advantage over others. Tactical flashlights are typically offered in basic black or silver, which customers in that segment of the market will gravitate to. On the other hand, hunters and military customers will prefer camo patterns or solid colors, such as green or brown. A good selection geared to your customer mix increases the likelihood of sales.

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The Streamlight TLR-6TM is an ultra-compact weapon light/laser-sighting device
designed for the GLOCK 42 and 43. It delivers 100 lumens, as well as housing a
640-660 nm red laser.

Light Up Secondary Sales

While some flashlights have internal charging systems, the overwhelming majority uses drop-in batteries of both the single-use and rechargeable kind. For flashlights, batteries are easy secondary sales. The early LED flashlights used batteries produced by Asian manufacturers, and they were hard to come by. American manufacturers have caught up, so this has become less of a problem.

Flashlight accessories include the aforementioned universal and specific gun mounts, as well as lens filters (in a variety of colors for various situations), diffusers, holsters and belt clips (most commonly used by L.E. personnel) and lanyards. These add-ons present additional opportunities for secondary sales.

Flashlights, batteries and related accessories also offer a more comfortable markup compared to the tight margins in firearms — a markup of 25 to 40 percent isn’t uncommon. Add it all up and you can gauge there’s good money to be made in flashlights, so isn’t it time you invest your capital and knowledge in this product category?
By Pat Covert

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