Developing A Successful Sales Strategy
By Pat Covert
Profits are where you find them, and flashlights can point the way toward welcome added earnings for firearms retailers. Think about it: Every firearms user who comes into your store has a necessity for a flashlight of some kind. Hunters and those involved in other outdoor sports have a need for handhelds, headlamps and lanterns. Then there’s the obvious weapon lights for handgun and long-gun use. Law enforcement personnel and emergency responders typically tote belted flashlights. And we all have a need for a small pocket or keychain flashlight; just about everyone who graces your doorway carries an emergency flashlight in their car or SUV. This amounts to a load of potential flashlight sales — and you can be the beneficiary of all those profits. Shooting Industry asked industry experts a variety of questions geared toward helping firearms retailers increase sales in flashlights and the hot weapon lights segment. Follow along!
Know Your Tech
Technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds in the portable lighting market. Consumers want the latest the industry has to offer, so it’s incumbent on the retailer to keep up. COAST Products CEO David Brands outlined the future trajectory of this tech-driven segment.
“The hand-held lighting business continues to be driven by technology. First and foremost though, the most important feature by far is: How good and how useful is the light beam created by the light? We’ve recently patented four different optic systems to be sure we offer the right beam for the right use. The next wave of technology will be in rechargeable lights. We’re already seeing this today,” he said.
Vaughn Jones is the accessories manager at Mark’s Outdoors, a highly successful sporting goods and firearms retailer located in Vestavia, Ala. Jones shared what the store’s customers are looking for in flashlights.
“First off, flashlights with an increased lumen output always catch our customers’ eyes. Compact, high-lumen lights are the hottest sellers at our store. More so, customers are drawn to an increase in battery run time, while also maintaining that same output. Lastly, we’ve seen a large trend in USB rechargeable equipment because of the convenient accessibility to USB ports.”
Jones summarized key selling points employed by sales associates at Mark’s.
“Size, lumen output, carry type (i.e., pocket, belt pouch, cradle or just throwing in a bag), battery type and charging method tend to be the selling points we touch on regularly,” he noted. “Everyday carry or professional work use is what most of our customers are purchasing flashlights for. Secondly, because we’re a large hunting and fishing store, hunting and outdoor recreation is another significant customer group. Finally, I’d say personal defense.”
The Tactile Advantage
An inherent advantage firearms retailers retain today is the ability to allow customers to touch, try and buy right there in their store. This tactile edge for both flashlight and weapons light sales is huge, but you must take advantage of it.
“Firearms retailers should allow their customers to touch and feel the lights as well as try the beam before they make a purchase,” Brands emphasized. “Key questions to consider: Do they need an inspection beam for up-close work? Do they need a long-distance beam for search and rescue or a big, broad flood beam for general use?”
“Get them off the floor!” stressed Andy Scott, Viridian Weapon Technologies director of sales and marketing. “I’ve seen hundreds of retailers who keep their weapon-mounted accessories on the bottom of their glass cases. The most successful retailers merchandise this high-margin product right next to applicable firearms and even create their own packages.” (Whenever possible, mount weapon lights on several of your most popular models as well. They take up very little shelf space compared to a firearm.)
Jones clued us in on Mark’s in-store strategy: “In our store, we display several of our flashlights near the register. We keep a variation of flashlights on display so a unit’s size and lumen output is easily differentiated. Physically seeing how bright and far the lights shine will give the customer a better understanding about what model will fit their needs. Our sales staff takes a very hands-on sales approach. We’re able to demonstrate the lights to our customers and go over features and benefits that help lead the customer to a decision for their needs.”
Positioning flashlights throughout the store has been very successful, Jones relayed.
“Our best strategies have been merchandising location,” he stated. “Fenix lights are popular sellers on and around the knife counter. SureFire sells well closer to our gun displays and Streamlight sells best on our accessory aisle with other firearm-related merchandise. All of our flashlights are located closer to the front doors of our store so they’re seen and not forgotten. We place the flashlights in one of the more visible locations so outdoorsmen don’t forget the necessity and usefulness of these smaller, but essential items.”
There To Help
Manufacturers can be your best friend in helping you on the road to profit and provide many ways to assist.
“We offer exclusive pricing and promotions to dealers throughout the year, free stock swaps, point-of purchase materials and really anything they would need to be successful with the line,” Scott informed.
“COAST provides ‘Test It’ merchandisers and video displays to help retailers show and sell our lights,” Brands noted. “We’ve been selling to retailers for 100 years and have all types of dealer programs for any size retailer.”
“For us, the best educational tool flashlight manufacturers provide are their sales representatives,” Jones shared. “They consistently inform us about new products and competitive feature upgrades. Furthermore, some sales representatives come to our store and assist our sales staff on promotional events. Listening to their sales pitches on products helps us pick up new tricks we may use in our own. In-person product education through sales reps is not only efficient, but also provides opportunities to build positive relationships between manufacturers and buyers.”
Profits For The Taking
Profits will vary from one manufacturer to another in the industry, but on the whole you’ll find they’re quite attractive.
“Lighting products can be very profitable for dealers. Margins are 40 to 50% and average selling prices in specialty retailers is $75 to $80,” Brands lends.
“Typical profit margins should be in the 30% range for this type of product.” Viridian’s Scott relates. “This can dramatically affect a retailer’s bottom line considering typical margins on a new gun sale are 10 to 20%. Retailers can often make more on the sale of an accessory than they do selling the gun.”
With profit margins like these you have all the incentive necessary to institute or expand your portable lighting program.