By Callie Wolverton
“People respond well to those that are sure of what they want.” — Anna Wintour, Vogue editor.
Retailers know what they want: loyal customers with disposable income who will gladly refer friends to their stores or ranges. Thankfully, the industry has found those desirable traits in male customers, but what about marketing to women? Statistically, women do most of the retail shopping in the family — and it’s been shown a mother’s opinion and attitude toward firearms and outdoor recreation has a substantial impact on her family’s participation.
One in five women own a firearm,1 and this number is increasing each year — especially given the current political and social climate. According to NSSF, women spent an average of $1,270 on firearms and shooting accessories in 2015.2 Likely, this number has increased in the years since. As retailers, wouldn’t it be nice to get a percentage of those sales?
Our industry’s tried-and-true marketing strategies have likely been successful in attracting and retaining male customers, but you may have to think outside the box in order to successfully market to female customers. Creative marketing solutions are not only for customer attraction, they can also do wonders for turning an occasional shopper into a loyal customer.
Here are three case studies from fellow retailers who were able to tap into their creative side and successfully attract women to their stores through unique, outside-the-box events:
1. Self-Defense Classes Spur Sales
Anonymous Retailer A mom-and-pop retailer based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (preferring to stay anonymous for this article) recently implemented a monthly women’s self-defense night at their store to empower and educate the women in their community. The store hired a local self-defense instructor, and paid $50 of the instructor’s one-hour group rate — leaving the remaining fee to be paid at $10 per participant for approximately 20 participants. Initially, the owners were worried they wouldn’t be able to get 20 women to show up to the first event, so they were in awe when 50 women signed up! As an added bonus, many of the participants came early or stayed late to browse around the store, some of which resulted in additional sales during a time when business was typically slow.
After hosting four monthly events, this store’s women’s self-defense night is now so popular they’ve had to split the training into two different classes. (Each class is fully booked with 40 women.) The popularity of the class has allowed the store to increase the fee to $20 per student. The owners noted there’s consistently been a $500 increase in sales on the nights they host the classes, adding 5% in revenue to the bottom line.
While these stats sound impressive for a small shop in a town of less than 10,000 people, the store’s owners are most proud of the fact they frequently see class attendees visiting their store on the other 29 days of the month.
“Knowing those women are safer thanks to our classes motivates us to keep marketing creatively, and especially to women,” one of the owners shared. “It’s worth it when you realize there are 20 new [female] gun owners out there who probably wouldn’t have stepped foot into our store if it wasn’t for the class.”
2. Firearms Are Fashionable
The Rock Guns & Gun Powder Gals Getting dressed in the morning, you may think about what you can (or can’t) wear for CCW. Unfortunately for many women, those five minutes spent in front of the closet each morning can be agonizing. “Are these jeans too tight to wear with my holster?” “Is this shirt loose enough to keep my gun from showing through?” “Will I be able to safely access my gun in this jumpsuit?” Those questions may seem silly to some, but they’re a daily reality for women who choose to carry on their person. The outdated suggestions to “wear a baggy shirt” or “just put a jacket on” can take away a person’s right to their personal style. (It may also make them less safe since they’re not used to accessing or drawing their firearms from those garments.)
“We know for some women it’s an
accomplishment just to walk in the
front door — much less to learn about
firearms and get proper training.”
Beth Martin, General Manager
Georgia Gun Club
Candy Sugarman of Gun Powder Gals, a recreational shooting group for women, realized many of the women she met through her group had no idea there were apparel brands designed by women, for women who carry concealed. Candy knew there had to be a better way to introduce her members to these brands without all of the trial and error common with online shopping. In 2015, Candy started Fierce & Feminine, a CCW fashion show. She hosted her first show in a local VFW hall with 192 women in attendance. After a couple of years, Candy realized the fashion show would have even more of an impact with the support of a local partner. She joined forces with The Rock Guns in Fayetteville, N.C., to bring more awareness to the fashion show and target female gun owners who were actively searching for comfortable, fashionable carry wear.
Thanks to this partnership, the Fierce & Feminine Fashion Show now showcases over 20 CCW apparel and accessories brands, including Girls With Guns, Dene Adams and others. Attendance has grown to 200-plus women, many of whom have become customers of The Rock Guns due to their knowledgeable seminars and training sessions provided at the event.
As a result of this partnership, The Rock Guns has positioned itself as a leading local firearms retailer for women. The store also benefits from first-hand “market research” provided by fashion show attendees.
“Don’t market with fear,” Candy advises. “I’ve had plenty of men tell me I should talk to the women about protecting yourself from violent attacks and I know women don’t respond well to that. Instead, we speak about empowerment, getting comfortable with a gun and self-protection.”
3. Strength In Numbers
Georgia Gun Club The Georgia Gun Club (Buford, Ga.) is a prime stop for many Southern shooters, including those passing through Georgia on their way to other destinations. It boasts an impressive shooting range and features the only 100-yard indoor rifle range in the state. Several national women’s shooting groups host their monthly chapter meetings at the Georgia Gun Club. However, merely hosting these chapters wasn’t enough to boost the facility’s female demographic. It’s why General Manager Beth Martin decided to take action.
Martin had watched the succession of shooting groups come through her doors and knew there had to be a better way to engage the women in her local community (even those who were new to firearms), and create a safe space where they could come to learn more about firearms, personal protection and the shooting sports.
In 2017, she started Lead & Lace (Ladies Achieving Confidence & Empowerment), a regional women’s shooting group focusing on both firearms and safety Q&A and hands-on training. Even though Martin knew there was a desire (and a need) for a group like Lead & Lace, she was worried she’d walk into the first meeting to a chorus of crickets. To her surprise, over 50 women attended the founding meeting, and it has grown exponentially from there.
“The goal began, and continues to be, to serve as a stepping stone for women to get started in the shooting industry. With this in mind, we know for some women it’s an accomplishment just to walk in the front door — much less to learn about firearms and get proper training. Lead & Lace is their starting point,” Martin said.
Lead & Lace prides itself on being an inclusive group, and its members range from teenage girls (accompanied by their mothers) to women in their 60s and 70s. The group has increased its membership by 18% in 2019, but Martin sees another number as more of a “win”: Georgia Gun Club has seen a 20% increase in attendance on Tuesdays (the facility’s ladies free range day).
“Seeing these women come into the store to shop or shoot on days other than Tuesdays or the nights Lead & Lace meets is incredibly rewarding,” Martin said. “One of my main goals of Lead & Lace is recognizing as wives, moms, friends and volunteers in the community, our time is precious. We want to make sure whoever attends a Lead & Lace meeting leaves more comfortable, more confident and more knowledgeable than when she arrived.”
Editor’s Note: Visit www.shootingindustry.com for additional excerpts from Georgia Gun Club’s Beth Martin, including how the store’s dedicated Lead & Lace Facebook page continues to drive interest.
The Bottom Line
Whether you have the time to commit to a recurring, membership-type of event or you’re just looking to spice up existing retail space, you can count on creative, outside-the-box marketing techniques to be a big hit with women! Have some to share? Contact email@example.com to have your store featured in this column.