By C. Ainsley Beeman
Successful hunters learn to focus on key elements when afield, especially the variables when things don’t go as planned — otherwise, they’ll join the ranks of the less fortunate. Those who show up with their game face on are far more likely to score when opportunity presents itself. A similar scenario unfolds in the world of retail marketing: The old axiom of “one size fits all” may hold true if you’re stocking caps, but that’s about the extent of it.
Catering To Experienced Enthusiasts
When your female customers are shopping for women’s hunting apparel and gear, their focus will be on a few specific features: fit, comfort, quality and practicality. To the surprise of many retailers, most women hunters prefer a good camo pattern or earth tone color over “feminine fluorescent” any day of the week. (Pink, teal and purple will still appeal to some women, however.) Focus on the key elements with all merchandise, and realize some women are serious participants who do not want to stand out afield or in public with bright, classically “feminine” colors.
If you want women to know you take them seriously, target these three components when stocking hunting gear for them:
Fit: Women want to be comfortable, yet they also want to be able to successful — looking pretty doesn’t cut it if it hinders performance. Therefore, it would behoove retailers to research and stock women’s outdoor clothing, but I would go as far to say you should also consider stocking more men’s clothing in size small than before. I grew up hunting, and own more men’s clothing than women’s due to the formerly poor selection of women’s gear — I’m sure this holds true for some of your customers, too. (Shooting equipment and other accessories follow a similar trend as well.) Commit your store to stock, sell and service the essentials for your female clients to succeed.
Quality: What good is fit if the quality isn’t there? It’s exciting to see brands like SITKA, Lacrosse and Weatherby engineering products designed specifically for a woman. Why? Responsive brands realize quality ensures durability, which in turn yields maximum functionality afield. Fit is important, of course, but if the quality isn’t there … don’t venture too far from the truck.
Compromising fit for quality is a fairly common occurrence for women — we’ll readily enlist the services of a professional (e.g., gunsmith for firearms modifications or tailor for resizing apparel) to avoid “looking cute” in the woods. Hunting is already very challenging, both mentally and physically, which is why quality gear plays a huge part in a hunter’s success — regardless of gender.
Practicality: Dovetailing with the two previous points, a product’s practicality in the field will cement its place as a hunter favorite. Very few serious hunters rate a product’s extravagance, especially if it isn’t practical and serves little purpose. A key concern: Does it enhance the hunt and withstand the elements? Dealers should ponder such questions when purchasing for female clientele — and it couldn’t hurt to pick your customers’ brains as well.
Relating to the final consideration above, forming relationships with outdoorswomen in your community is also very important. Gather their thoughts and comments concerning outfitting the female hunter, and consider implementing their suggestions in your store (when feasible). Often, a listening ear speaks volumes about concern.
Lastly, perhaps it would also be beneficial to consider bringing an experienced outdoorswoman on staff — if you haven’t done so already — to assist in purchasing for this market. A knowledgeable female salesperson engaging other women when they visit your store can glean valuable information relative to gaining a repeat customer.
Welcoming New Hunters
Regardless of gender, a dealer’s approach can be everything in earning a sale — especially those new to hunting and the shooting sports.
Jim’s Firearms, with a location in Baton Rouge, La., and Pensacola, Fla., embodies this principle. Owner Jim McClain shared his insights on the topic of marketing to the female hunter — highlighting the importance of a welcoming approach and a relaxed sale.
A first-time visitor doesn’t have to get too far past the front door to realize there is a desire within this business to truly want to get to know their customers and understand their qualifications.
“Getting to know the potential customers’ experiences and desires afield allows our staff to make the best recommendation for the appropriate firearm,” he said. “Not every female wants a pink gun.”
This approach is communicated well through the store’s various marketing efforts. It recently produced a commercial of McClain taking to the woods with his daughters, firearms in tow — an excellent visual of how Jim’s Firearms embraces the atmosphere of the hunt. Often, women can be intimidated with the
so-called “kill factor” involved in hunting, so McClain has set up his business to focus on other aspects of the “experience.”
“We approach hunting by way of heritage and camaraderie,” he shared. “While there are social aspects to hunting, often times people in general enjoy the opportunity to get alone and experience nature. So, whether you’re talking to a female or a male, make it about the experience.”
A relaxed, non-gender specific approach like this lessens the intimidation factor one might have when considering a purchase, and it certainly plays a key part in turning one sale into multiple.
Expanding Sales To Women
Case Study: Weatherby Camilla
Brenda Weatherby, who serves as the director of people and culture at Weatherby Inc., sat down with SI to discuss the specific topic of women in the outdoors and what dealers need to consider when marketing to them. Brenda is not only an accomplished hunter and outdoorswoman, but also a mother and a key player at the family-owned company.
“When the ‘shrink it and pink it’ mentality is applied to hunting and outdoor gear, it can be perceived by some as an insult to a woman’s ability and competence,” she said. “Women, especially avid female hunters, want to be taken seriously.”
Brenda shared when Weatherby made its first attempt to market women’s rifles
and gear, it was done so by way of the Weatherby X (GH2) line — which was geared toward users who wanted a more compact rifle. These bolt-action rifles initially were showcased with black stocks featuring a pink or green spider web design. However, it was clear this was not addressing the root issue. Weatherby shared this led to a change in approach by the company — electing to move away from pink as firearm’s prominent feature.
(This resonated with me because at a young age, I was often faced with making a decision on a firearm’s outward appearance alone. Somewhere deep within me, I felt like a color signifying me as a woman in a male-dominated arena didn’t give the perception I was as qualified as the boys shooting black-, camo- or wood-stocked firearms. The last thing I wanted to hear was “That’s cute.”)
Weatherby has since focused on designing products for women that are ergonomically different — catering to a woman’s build, rather than developing a product to stand out on appearance alone. The Weatherby Camilla, first launched in 2015, is a prime example of this approach. In the four years since its debut, it has become one of Weatherby’s top-selling lines.
“Both women and men saw the value in its performance and appearance,” Weatherby shared.
One of a number of success stories from around the industry, Weatherby’s commitment to develop and engineer products for women will continue to open up the market for future generations of hunters.