Optimized Optics

Maximize Margins With Must-Have Products

By Pat Covert

There are a number of reasons why you should optimize your optics program, and if done correctly, you’ll see the benefit in meeting the needs of your customers — and how it improves your bottom line. Optics are a sales opportunity waiting to happen, it’s up to you to take advantage of it. So, are you getting the most dollars out of your optics program?

Chad Converse, a manager at Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz., provided some unique insights on how his store has expanded sales in optics. Sprague’s has been featured in previous issues of SI. The store has been in business for 60 years, founded in 1956 by George W. Sprague. His son, Richard, has been leading the business since 1984.

“Richard built our current store in 2005,” Converse said. “It’s 18,100 square feet, with a 5,000-square-foot warehouse that houses a 10-lane, 25-yard indoor range. We’re currently going through construction on a new expansion, which will increase our retail showroom to approximately 8,000 square feet.”

“Scope Out” Profits

The advantages of using an optic to enhance shooting are not lost on customers at Sprague’s, according to Converse.

“Optics are a vital part of our business,” he said. “They make almost every aspect of shooting easier and they can help the average shooter be faster and much more accurate. The days of people using iron sights are starting to go away. Even handgun shooters are using optics more and more. We sell primarily hunting optics, but the tactical side is growing.”

“Firearms are very low margin for us, especially when compared to other segments,” Converse continued. “In order to keep the doors open, you need to have a nice facility and a knowledgeable sales staff to be able to make as much margin as possible. Most optics are in the 25–35 point range at MAP, with a few on either side.”

The all-important point of sale during a firearms purchase is your best opportunity to tack on an optics sale.
“In most instances, the best time to sell a scope is during the gun sale,” Converse said. “The customer is already feeling the excitement and rush of getting a new rifle, and placing a scope on their new toy is icing on the cake. You don’t want the customer to leave the store and have the option of buying somewhere else, or looking online.”

Converse also pinpointed several seasonal opportunities for dealers to take advantage of and curate a sale.

“Binoculars, spotting scopes, rangefinders and the like are more seasonal for us. A great time to sell optics is when customers are finding out which hunts they drew for the year. Many of our sales come at these times.”

Converse also emphasized the importance of serving the competitive and casual shooter.

“Although the lion’s share of our optics sales are for hunting, we do have great public access for plinking and our local range does give the opportunity to shoot out to 1,000 yards. There’s also a silhouette range with targets out to 550 yards as well. This helps drive sales. If a customer was unable to purchase a scope at the time they purchased their firearm, after a few trips to the range they are ready to increase their hits. This segment is almost immeasurable for us.”

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BARSKA AC12620

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Minox MD 88 W

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Leupold BX-3 Mojave HD

Training Is Key

The management team at Sprague’s believes product training is another key to selling optics.

“We use many avenues to help teach and train our staff in optics,” Converse noted. “We have weekly staff meetings in which we discuss manufacturers and product lines. We also invite reps to speak at these meetings. We encourage our staff to always educate themselves by reading manufacturer’s catalogs and industry magazines.”

In addition to weekly staff meetings, Sprague’s also encourages its employees to test the products firsthand, which will help with interacting with customers.

“We have our entire staff on 3point5.com training and encourage them to purchase product through the program and other manufacturer’s employee discount offerings,” Converse added. “We’ve found manufacturers with these purchase programs are some of our best sellers. The staff can have a deeper understanding and intimate knowledge of the product when they are able to use it in the field. Plus, customers are more receptive to taking your advice when you have firsthand experience.”

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Nikon Monarch 3 4-16×50

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Vortex Diamondback 8×28

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Nightforce NXS 12-42×56 RIFLESCOPE

Promotion, Promotion, Promotion

Promotion, both in-store and out, remains a big part of Sprague’s success. “We run ads multiple times a week through our local paper, which includes our optics. We also post on our website and Facebook page,” Converse noted.

In-store, you’ll find optics getting a lot of attention as well, according to Converse. “We have some rangefinders, binoculars and scopes on a display rack, which customers can look through and use without the assistance of a salesman and a whole bunch more under glass,” he said.

A broad selection and customer service beyond the call are also important. “We mount scopes on rifles to help encourage sales as well. They don’t always buy the whole package but we do get a decent amount of scope sales this way, especially with MSRs. If the customer buys a gun and scope, we’ll mount and bore sight the gun for free, and we do have the ability to sight it in for them as well.”

Keeping in mind the fall hunting season is only a few months away, your store can benefit from seasonal services.

“Right before hunting season we have a preseason sight-in special. This is a good time for us to upgrade a customer’s scope, offer a new recoil pad or even a new gun. We have them look through their current ‘older favorite’ scope and then show them a new one, even if it’s not a $1,000 scope. They usually jump all over it.”

Several brands sell well at Sprague’s. “We do well with Burris, Nikon, Leupold and Vortex as our low to mid-high end optics. Our higher-end optics sellers are Swarovski and ZEISS. Price points in our store range from $149 to $3,100,” Converse said.

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What’s In Store For Optics?

One challenge facing dealers is keeping up with the latest technology to keep optics customers hungry for more, according to Converse. He predicts rangefinders and range-finding scopes and binoculars will be a segment in the optics market that will experience continued growth — especially with recent technological advances.

“Binos and scopes that are able to give one-mile readings with exceptional glass and not look much different than a traditional scope or set of binoculars is what I believe the ‘new norm’ will be. I also predict scopes will give a firing solution for your target as well. While I think it’s very cool from a technology and sales aspect, I also think it will be a little sad as it will take away some of the art of shooting.”

One thing is clear: With more shooters depending on optics and their position on the forefront of technology, this product category will be a great area for retailers to invest in for years to come.

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