Lots Of Guns To Clean

Steady Firearm Sales Provide “Up-Sell” Opportunities For Cleaning Products.

With all the handguns, traditional rifles, shotguns and anything remotely tactical dealers of all sizes are readily selling these days, the most obvious category of add-on sales (next to ammunition, which is outpacing every add-on category) is gun-cleaning kits and products.

According to the latest data on hunting and shooting marketing trends from Southwick Associates (January-February 2013), shooting accessories are the second-most purchased items behind ammunition. And gun-cleaning supplies are at the top of the accessories list.

Folks are shooting aplenty, which means they need products to clean all those firearms. Enter the local firearms dealer, outfitted with cleaning solutions from A to Z.

“The cool thing about being in a small shop rather than in a big-box store is that it’s easier to communicate with your customers to make sure they are getting what they want or need,” said Chad Colby, sales manager at Hart Brothers Weaponry-South, located in Mason City, Iowa.

Colby works alongside storeowner Kemlin Hart, whose dad and uncle opened the original Hart Brothers Weaponry store upstate in Albert Lea in 1977.

“If you’re selling a gun, it’s easier to up-sell and bring in more dollars at the register by asking if the customer has a cleaning brush or oils and cleaners for that new .357 or whatever,” Colby said.

Colby uses his “sixth sales sense” to pinpoint the gun-cleaning products that deserve to be stocked and are likely to be top sellers. Of course, he backs that up with plenty of experience with the products he recommends.

“I enjoy having the freedom in a small shop to cherry-pick products I like. People usually go with what you use yourself. They trust in your knowledge and experience. I may carry a manufacturer’s full line of cleaning supplies or accessories, but if there’s another manufacturer that really hit the nail on the head with a product, I can bring that one in by itself, as well,” Colby said.

It’s important to make selecting gun-cleaning products as easy as possible for customers.
“Everything is in one area, so we can take a customer there and run down the options — the entire process of how to go about cleaning a gun. We give customers the option of either going overboard or keeping it simple,” Colby said.

Kemlin Hart (right), owner of Hart Brothers Weaponry-South, and Chad Colby,
sales manager, sell a wide range of cleaning products, including the Otis line.

New for 2013, M-Pro7 offers a BoreSnake cleaning kit
designed for 3-Gun competitors. Visit www.mpro7.com.

Make An Investment

One of the manufacturers whose full line of cleaning supplies Hart Brothers carries is Otis.

“One thing we did while at a dealer show earlier this year was order a full-line Otis cleaning kit display. It comes on a turning rack, and it’s a nice point-of-purchase item. It’s close to the counter, so when people are up front and you’re ringing up the sale, they can be reminded they need a cleaning kit,” Colby said.

In addition to the Otis display, Hart Brothers also has used Hoppe’s Boresnake displays, providing a good selection of bore snakes, which Colby says “really fit the bill for a guy who’s looking to do something quick.”

Deciding which lubricants to stock can be a bit of a challenge, Colby says.
“There’s a lot of the old-school guys who want Hoppe’s #9 or Rem Oil or the like, because that’s all they’ve ever used. In a shop our size, it’s hard to carry six different CLP (cleaner/lubricant/preservative) products, so we pick one that works really well and stick with that. The M-Pro7 lineup has been good for us,” Colby added.

Colby also talks up M-Pro7’s copper cleaner, which he says works great for “the benchrest guys that really want to strip their barrels down to nothing.”

Among Hart Brothers’ other top-selling gun-cleaning product brands are G96 and Birchwood Casey, especially the latter’s Gun Scrubber. Another good mover for the shop has been Safariland’s Kleen Bore Pockets.

“Kleen Bore Pockets give you a handgun cleaning kit in one package. It includes a brush, a jag and a bore mop, all in one easy kit that’s caliber-specific,” Colby said.

Every now and then, someone walks into Hart Brothers Weaponry bearing some off-base advice from a friend or gun forum. Bypassing “real” gun-cleaning products in favor of all-purpose cleaners or lubricants is only folk wisdom.

“If someone comes in saying, ‘My friend says this or that,’ we always ask what the friend does for a living. I can tell them that I do this for a living and I’m good at it. You don’t want to have an attitude or talk down to anybody, but you need to present your experience in a way somebody wouldn’t have thought about before,” Colby said.

Birchwood Casey’s popular Bore Scrubber Gel is now available in an 11 1/2-ounce Professional Size Aerosol, with an MSRP of $12.20. Visit www.birchwoodcasey.com.

For 2013, Hoppe’s updated its 110-year-old bore cleaner with Hoppe’s No. 9 Synthetic Blend. It has the same recognizable scent and cleaning feature, but is now non-flammable and biodegradable.

Draw Customers Back

How can dealers improve the profitability of their gun-cleaning product sales? It helps to comparatively think outside the box, Colby says. Being confined within your four walls all the time may give a dealer tunnel vision.

“One thing I always try to do when I have a day off or I’m in another area, is to visit other stores to see their displays. If I see a full-line display of products that looks impressive, I try to draw from that for our store. It could be something as simple as coordinating packaging on a shelf or a wall. I try to carry a full-size run of something, even though we may not sell as much of it,” said Colby. “It’s nice to have those options for customers, so they will think, ‘Hey, they had that item last time. I’m going to check with them again.’”

Though it may sound like a too-familiar refrain, Colby reminds dealers they have to know their customer demographics.

“Every customer is different. We have guys who go out and shoot a lot and then those who shoot maybe 50 rounds a month,” he said. “Even those 50-round guys are visiting the store more often, since their mentality is ‘I’d better get it while I can see it.’”

That “seize-the-day” mentality is most often applied to ammunition these days, but it also means the more times a customer walks through your door, the more times he will see your upfront gun-cleaning product displays. When he finds that ammo he’s been looking for, he’s going to need to clean a firearm later.

“You can point out a cool product, such as the AR Maintenance Tool set from Otis, that also works well for cleaning other guns,” Colby said.

Colby says dealers should not be afraid of offering their customers higher-ticket cleaning kits, while making sure, of course, to have items on hand for those who want to spend far less.

“I was always a little afraid of the Otis kits because, in general, they are kind of expensive. But they are a great value. When we brought the display in, I got a kit myself because I am a firm believer in using what you sell. The all-in-one Otis Elite Kits sell for $110-$120, and we’ve sold a lot more of those than I thought we would. It’s okay to roll the dice a bit with some of that. Just because you may not use a kit like that, doesn’t mean somebody else doesn’t want to.”
By Greg Staunton

Remington’s Squeeg-E Universal Gun Cleaning System includes the tools, cleaner and oil
to clean and maintain handguns, rifles and shotguns. Visit www.remington.com.

ATK offers its Premium Partners various displays highlighting its many brands,
including Outers. The brands feature numerous cleaning products and kits.
Visit www.premiumpartners.atk.com.

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