View From Distribution
By Kenyon Gleason, NASGW President
If I said the current market was unique, different, tight, flat, up, down, strong, contracting, growing or changing … would you agree? Which of those words best describes the market you’re seeing right now? If you asked me, at least in early May when I finished this article, I’d tell you it’s all of them. At the same time. It really just depends on who you talk to.
Data Empowers Decision-Makers
In previous Shooting Industry articles (and certainly in the column I write for NASGW members) you’ve heard me make the case distributors are the best source for a well-rounded and well-informed take on what’s happening in the marketplace — from what’s hot to what’s not, from what’s up to what’s on its way out.
And now to give even more weight to those well-informed distributor opinions, and for the first time in NASGW’s 60-plus-year history, we’re actually using a collection of billions of dollars in sales transaction data to create an even clearer picture of the market.
The new SCOPE data initiative, currently gathering statistical information from 20 of our member distributors, is giving us a revealing window into the marketplace.
Each distributor sharing data in the system can now see — at a moment’s notice — what types of products are moving, and where. Manufacturer subscribers can likewise compare their own data to the rest of the marketplace. It’s a powerful tool to help the distribution channel better understand buying and production decisions.
Because we’re still pretty new in the development of SCOPE, specific statistics are not available — yet. Before the year is over, we’ll provide members, and the industry at large, with a recurring snapshot of specific products and statistics to help everyone better understand trends and success from the distribution channel.
(Editor’s Note: To learn more about SCOPE, visit www.nasgwscope.org.)
Dealers are very conservative in their buying habits right now.
Anything new from a manufacturer is of course first on their list …
generally those more recent concealable models.
Malcolm Getz, Camfour CEO
Malcolm Getz, Camfour CEO
Direct From Wholesalers
We thought you might like to hear directly from the sources working day to day in the distribution arena. I’ve asked members of the NASGW board of directors to comment on the four questions below. The answers are provided by current NASGW Chairwoman and President and CEO of Lipsey’s, Laurie Aronson (LA); current NASGW Treasurer and CEO of Camfour, Malcolm Getz (MG); and former NASGW Chairman and President and CEO of L.M. Burney Distributors, Brad Burney (BB). Their answers, noted by their initials, are outlined below.
1. As you work with retailers, what types of products are moving the best? What are they asking you for?
MG: Dealers are very conservative in their buying habits right now. Anything new from a manufacturer is of course first on their list. Each manufacturer has a staple that always seems to sell well, and it’s generally those more recent concealable models. We’re also moving anything colored; Cerakote-dipped, etc., those types of things seem to be moving quite well right now.
LA: 9mm handguns are still the best movers. Concealable 9s still have good volume (SIG P365s and GLOCK 43s) and 9mm pistols with a “value” price point do also (such as Ruger EC9s). Dealers are more cost-conscious now and they are looking for bargains. New products still get retailers excited though.
BB: The bestselling firearms at this time are inexpensive compact handguns. Dealers and consumers are highly price conscious in this market. Additionally, new products are driving a fair amount of business but the longevity of high demand for those is far shorter than in the past decade.
2. As you work with manufacturers, what types of products are they trying to move right now?
LA: At this point, manufacturers are focused on getting their production in line with demands. Opportunity buys and programs have slowed as manufacturers’ inventories have aligned with production. Their focus is heavily on innovation and new products. Manufacturers who are not innovative will struggle keeping excitement and velocity within their brands.
BB: Most manufacturers have adapted to the market well. Those creating new product in the lower price-point categories are doing well. The competition for dealer business through rebates, spiffs and buy-get programs is high.
MG: Manufacturers are into the “something different variant” of their staples … different color models are coming steadily. Also, we’re seeing some “packaged deals” such as optics, holsters, extra magazines — really anything to add a little extra value. This ends up being very good for the consumer. Manufacturers are also doing a lot of consumer rebates to help things move.
3. When you as a distributor are working with retailers, in what areas are you seeing growth/development/changes in terms of operations and creating better efficiencies in those relationships?
BB: Retailers are far less likely to purchase extra inventory at this point even with the additional dollars manufacturers are using to incentivize it. The market discounting of the last couple years and the wide availability of product has significantly contributed to the just-in-time mindset of many dealers as they see potential risk in additional inventory.
MG: Honestly, I’m not seeing much growth right now, as contraction is more evident. Our sales growth is coming from gained market share. We’re focusing on customer service, financing arrangements and other unique ways to help boost our relationships. It’s a bit of a risky market right now.
LA: We are staying very strong in all aspects of marketing to the retailers.
4. As you partner with manufacturers, in what areas are you seeing growth/development/changes in terms of operations and creating better efficiencies in those relationships?
MG: We’re seeing manufacturers focus a lot more on “special make up” guns at lower buy levels than in previous years. Most manufacturers have the capacity, and we like the different runs. Having the custom opportunities is helping our profitability.
LA: Data is still the big driver in making change at the manufacturer/distributor level. It’s the obvious empowerment tool.
BB: The expanded use of data has led to greater efficiencies and faster reaction to changing conditions and market demand for most manufacturers. Those with the ability to rapidly scale to demand are doing far better in this market.
Finding Success Today
As we make our way through summer, and into the traditionally busy fall selling season, it’s evident new products, innovative products and even some “updated” versions of existing winners will continue to lead the way.
Companies taking advantage of these items and trends, and marketing them in the right way, will continue to find success with consumers who are still demanding products, but are maybe a bit more focused in what they’re looking for.