Outfitting Your Hunting Customers

Jim Rauscher Highlights The Gear, Clothing And Footwear Hunters Want.

Having the right gear in the field — from clothing and footwear to radios and game calls — is just as important as the firearm the hunter carries afield. If dealers aren’t stocking every piece of equipment a hunter needs, they could be turning away business.

Jim Rauscher, owner of Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul, Minn., knows the importance of carrying a variety of products come hunting season. Firearms account for 15 percent of Rauscher’s total sales, while hunting gear and related accessories make up the balance.

“We do a pretty good job in hunting clothing,” Rauscher said. “I find that it takes a commitment to space and the products to make it work, and then a staff that is trained in features and benefits to sell it.”

Rauscher has staff members assigned solely to the clothing areas of his store, a model that has worked well across multiple sections of his large three-story facility.

“If you just put out clothing and expect it to fly off the shelf, it won’t work,” Rauscher said. “Someone needs to be there straightening, folding and servicing the customer.”

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Selling hunting clothing “takes a commitment to space
and the products to make it work,” according to Jim Rauscher,
owner and president of Joe’s Sporting Goods.

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Establish A Clothing Niche

Rauscher says it’s vital to offer a variety of price-points across the different types of clothing, catering to customers ranging from the casual hunter who might go out once a season, to the avid hunter who is out multiple times a week.

“Having a selection to cover all the categories you sell is important,” Rauscher said. “If you are a specialty shop doing archery, then offer basic camo clothing up to ScentBlocker, Sitka and Scent-Lok brands.”

Carrying a wide assortment of camouflage clothing and accessories is especially important. A recent Southwick Associates survey showed 94 percent of sportsmen purchased at least one camo item in 2011.

Those loyal to camo said the popular pattern/coloring of the product even supersedes their own brand loyalty, a purchasing factor that came in second in the survey with 57 percent.

The most recent hunting trends report from Southwick showed camo was once again the most frequently purchased type of clothing this spring, with Mossy Oak selected as the most popular camo brand.
Hunters also preferred Hunter’s Specialties vests and Remington blaze orange clothing. In the upland category for clothing, Rauscher sells Beretta, Browning, Columbia and Gamehide.

“We sell a lot of chaps for bird hunting, and you don’t have a lot of sizes to worry about like you do with upland pants,” Rauscher said. “For the waterfowl hunter, we picked up a new brand called Banded. The guys behind this line are hardcore hunters, and they have some great products. We will see how well they ship in their first year.”

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Don’t Forget Footwear

In addition to devoting a large part of his business to clothing, Rauscher has developed a niche in the hunting footwear business.

“I have people scheduled in the footwear department and that’s all they do — sell footwear,” Rauscher said. “We offer a big selection and a lot of styles in wide sizes and some up to size 16. We very rarely say no to a special-size request.”

Joe’s main hunting boot lines are Danner, Irish Setter, Itasca, LaCrosse and Muck. Hunting enthusiasts identified Rocky as their preferred boot brand in the Southwick survey.
Offering quality footwear and knowing how to fit the boots to the customer are both key to establishing a successful niche in hunting footwear, Rauscher said.

Joe’s also considers women hunters when stocking clothing shelves. The store has started carrying more ladies-specific clothing over the years, especially pink products that promote breast cancer awareness.

“We are definitely seeing an increase in female hunters,” Rauscher said. “It used to be all the guys going on a hunting trip. Now the boyfriends are bringing their girlfriends and husbands bring their wives.”

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Start The Season With Sales

Rauscher promotes the fact that Joe’s carries clothing for women in the ads he runs to shore up successful sales as hunters prepare for the season.

“In the fall, we have the preseason hunting sale, which we run the weekend before Labor Day,” Rauscher said. “We have summer clearance and fall hunting sales, which generate a lot of traffic from customers who are gearing up for fall hunting.”

That three-day sale is extremely successful for Rauscher. He prints fliers and advertises in local outdoor magazines to promote discounted prices on ammo, as well as steep price drops on firearms.
“Sales peak during that preseason sale, but we have people coming in during the whole fall,” Rauscher said. “It’s a good kickoff to get the procrastinators to come in and make a lot of their purchases, like vest, pants and accessories. They’re also coming in and just checking out the store.”

In addition to advertising and running the right promotions, Rauscher also believes keeping the store fresh and working with new products are important when it comes to outfitting hunting customers. He likes to play videos in the store of certain products in action, which he’s found can really help sell a customer.

“Customers don’t always want to be sold by a salesman, especially now with the Internet,” Rauscher said. “But if they see a video talking about how the product is beneficial, those featured products can sell very well.”

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Firearms — including Browning’s X-Bolt Hunter — account for
15 percent of total sales at Joe’s Sporting Goods, with hunting
gear and related accessories making up the balance.

Offer Other Accessories

Videos are a great way to show products like decoys and game calls in action. Joe’s best-selling decoy brand is Greenhead Gear by Avery. In game calls, the top seller for waterfowl is Buck Gardner, while Primos is the brand of choice for turkey.

“We do carry a fair amount of higher-end game calls, like Bowman. We’ve been seeing a surge in higher-end duck and goose calls,” Rauscher said.

Turkey decoys were much more popular than waterfowl among hunters who purchased a decoy this spring, with 85 percent purchasing turkey decoys and only 10 percent choosing waterfowl, according to the Southwick survey. The trend stayed true in game calls as well, with 76 percent of customers buying turkey calls, 6 percent buying big game and 4 percent buying waterfowl.

“The hunters who are out there a lot during the season appreciate a quality call,” Rauscher said. “It kind of becomes the signature of the hunter. When they’re out hunting, they talk about what call the other person uses. Some say if you have a no-name, cheap call, you’re not a real hunter.”

In blinds, Rauscher sells more Avery Finisher than any other type of blind. Southwick survey respondents preferred Ameristep, with 65 percent of customers purchasing their blinds from an outdoor specialty store.

Rauscher sells more Midland radios than any other line, and the Lowrance Endura Out&Back GPS is currently his best-selling GPS unit.

Joe’s Sporting Goods is an impressive, successful example of how dealers can turn profits on all categories pertaining to hunting — not just in firearms. Gear, clothing and footwear are crucial categories that deserve time and attention in the store, Rauscher said.
By J.K. Autry

Want To Learn More From Jim Rauscher?

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The August issue of Shooting Industry featured Part 1 of our interview with Jim Rauscher of Joe’s
Sporting Goods —focusing on the business side of Joe’s, including best sellers, common hunting-season
mistakes and how to effectively target the hunting market.

>> Click Here << To read Part 1 of Shooting Industry’s profile of Joe’s Sporting Goods.

Get More Features

Shooting Industry September 2012

>> Click Here << To View The September 2012 Issue Today!

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