Online-Only Exclusive: Continuing The Progression

By Jade Moldae

Easy-racking semi-autos, like the new Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield EZ, are popular self-defense options for women.

A prevalent theme throughout this year’s Woman’s Issue (as well as the 2019 edition, which is available here) is the industry has come a long way in the last few years welcoming women — both as customers and at the executive level. In a welcome trend, gun stores and ranges that are either woman-owned or -operated have grown more common, which has provided fresh perspectives on success.

Jacquelyn Clark, owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo., and Beth Martin, general manager of The Georgia Gun Club in Buford, Ga., recently sat down with Shooting Industry to discuss their strategies and how the industry can continue its progression of welcoming women to the shooting sports.

As you’d might expect, how a store markets itself is key to securing sales from women. Clark described Bristlecone’s efforts.

“We regularly market ourselves as a female-owned business that’s non-intimidating,” she lends. “We advertise our female-only and female-friendly events, like Ladies’ Night and our women-only classes.”

In addition, Bristlecone has six female staff members — one of whom is a lead instructor.

“Having women on staff allows us to ‘walk-the-walk’ and help female customers when they come in,” Clark added.

At The Georgia Gun Club, Martin shared the facility’s success is built around a culture of inclusivity.

“The women who come in and consume with us often thank us for the atmosphere we’ve created, one that isn’t high pressure — but rather, we give them information and choices,” she shared.

Martin credits the industry for encouraging women to join the shooting sports, but often sees efforts at competing stores falling flat.

“I’ll visit other stores in our area and of course interact with women who consume at other places, and I’ll find stores are often not executing a welcoming environment for them the way it’s described in trade publications,” she noted.

Older Customers

Bristlecone markets itself as a welcoming, non-intimidating facility for women to come in for a visit.
Owner Jacquelyn Clark also has six women on her team, to further facilitate a welcoming environment.

Martin confirmed a trend reported in previous issues of SI by The Well Armed Woman’s Carrie Lightfoot: There are profits to be made in generating interest from Baby Boomers.

“We’ve had a high volume of Baby Boomers come in, which is a totally different selling experience in the ways they spend their money and their comfort level,” Martin noted. “Having this customer group be comfortable and consume with us has been a real asset.”

On the topic of Baby Boomers, Martin recounted a fairly common occurrence: A husband and wife will come into the store, and the husband will insist on getting his wife a revolver. To remedy this situation, The Georgia Gun Club emphasizes its “Try Before You Buy” program — giving the wife an opportunity to shoot it on the range and make an informed decision. Other stores don’t have this program, giving The Georgia Gun additional opportunities to stand out.

“Just recently, I had a woman call in who was talked into buying a revolver at a big-box store and when she took it to the range she couldn’t pull the heavy trigger. We talked over a couple options, such as referring her to a gunsmith and modifying the trigger pull. Or I told her she could bring it in and we’ll trade it in for something else!” she exclaimed.

Easy-racking semi-autos are top sellers among this customer group. Martin earmarked the Smith & Wesson M&P 380 Shield EZ (and its new 9mm variant), and the HK VP9SK as top sellers.

Not every customer who comes in the door is looking to buy a firearm, however. For that reason, Bristlecone has invested in a robust selection of non-lethal products for women.

“We have a good selection of non-lethal personal defense products, as well as holsters that women tend to like,” Clark said. “Also, we carry range bags geared toward women, concealed carry purses, etc.”

Stocking New Products

We asked both stores if they’ve tried stocking anything new this year.

“We brought in some concealed carry leggings, which have been moderately successful,” Clark shared. “With any type of apparel, we’ve learned you have to have multiples of all sizes for them to turn well.”

“Right now, I’m on the search for black and red items — being in Georgia we have a huge University of Georgia following, so anything black and red sells. We also go for more options than just pink, whether its teal, gray or something else,” Martin added.

The Georgia Gun Club has an extensive Try Before You Buy Program — giving customers the
opportunity to make an informed decision ahead of a firearms purchase.

What Can The Industry Do Better?

As noted above, the industry has made excellent strides in welcoming women. Both stores provided thoughts on what would take it a step further.

Martin underscored the importance of knowing how women view spending.

“Quality is really important to women,” she said. “They spend differently than men; they tend to put themselves last on the list as mothers/wives/sisters/daughters — spending money on others first. So, they desire a quality product and it needs to last when they invest in it.”

Clark noted if the industry can continue opening up opportunities for women, it will lead to more successes.

“We need more female employees and leadership — just more visible women in general,” she said. “Women like to do business with other women.”

How has your store thrived in connecting with women? We want to hear from you! Contact:

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