Part 3: On The Mark — Targeting Women Competition Shooters

By Ashley McGee

Getting a foothold in niche markets, such as competition shooting, gives your store another revenue outlet and encourages additional in-store visits. When stocking new inventory, Jessie Harrison recommends starting with baseline models.

When it comes to marketing to women, casting too wide a net can make it difficult to effectively allocate your budget and track the return on investment. By utilizing niche marketing, you can focus resources on building quality customer relationships that will allow you to serve those customers better as a result.

One particular niche within the shooting industry is largely underserved — women competition shooters.

“In the past, the shooting sports has largely been considered a ‘men’s sport,’” said Doug Clayton, managing member of Bulls Eye Marksman Gun Club in Cumming, Ga. “But female competitors, and shooters in general, are the largest open market we have.”

Focus On The Club Level
A good way to find out if there is a healthy demand in your area is to network with shooting clubs based near you. If you have a range, there may be an opportunity to host them for training or competitions.

Bulls Eye Marksman Gun Club hosts monthly GLOCK Sport Shooting Federation (GSSF) matches, which includes a Top Lady Shooter category. You don’t have to actively participate in competitions, but simply watching female shooters compete can offer valuable insight. 

Competition shooters use products like ammunition and targets at a faster rate than the average recreational shooter. Consider offering incentives for repeat business, like a loyalty program for local club members.

If there’s a demand, you may also offer those who compete bulk order options for ammunition, components and other gear. As you know already: High-volume shooters result in additional sales opportunities for you and can provide a revenue boost.

Think Beyond Inventory
While carrying some products is important, there’s more to marketing to female competition shooters than filling your shelves with inventory. 

AZ Firearms (Avondale, Ariz.) carries a wide variety of firearms for all forms of sporting, hunting and self-defense. However, the way they best serve their clientele of competitive shooters is not necessarily by the products they carry, but by having a full-time gunsmith on staff.

Cheryl Todd, owner of AZ Firearms, shared her store offers to special order guns, parts and
accessories as a way to serve competition shooters.”

“The more firearms are used, the more they require maintenance,” said Owner Cheryl Todd. With a gunsmith on staff, they’re able to offer an average of one- to two-day turnaround times for firearms that come in for service.

A Marine Corps combat veteran, Kyle Leavitt worked with the Precision Weapons Section to build scout sniper systems and was a member of the Camp Lejeune shooting team. Following his service, he attended the Yavapai Gunsmithing program. Leavitt is an avid reloader, firearms collector and competitor.

Kyle Leavitt is AZ Firearms’ on-site gunsmith — giving the store the ability to offer one- or two-day turnaround times for firearms coming in for service. “Both men and women of smaller stature tend to require shorter stocks on long guns and specialized grips on handguns. Those are the types of things Kyle is able to help out with on a regular basis,” Owner Cheryl Todd said.

His knowledge and experience give him unique insight into the needs of competitive shooters, which can often only be met through customization. 

“Both men and women of smaller stature tend to require shorter stocks on long guns and specialized grips on handguns,” said Todd. “Those are the types of things Kyle is able to help with on a regular basis.”

AZ Firearms has also noticed competitors are using the store’s trade-in service — most notably as new competitors when they’re acquiring their first gun and then as they decide to upgrade to higher-quality equipment.

Needs change over time as shooters learn to hone their skills. Due to the vast amount of products available for each different type of competitive shooting, Todd said they offer special ordering services, not only on the guns, but also the parts and accessories. For more on AZ Firearms, visit www.AZfirearms.com.

Being prepared to order products upon request can help dealers meet the needs of competition shooters without the overhead of managing physical inventory.

What The Professionals Say
For further insights, we talked to a few of country’s top professional female shooting competitors to find out in their opinion what independent dealers are doing well and how they could refine their efforts of selling competition products. 

SI: Do independent firearms dealers do a good job of catering to female competition shooters, why or why not?

While the competition market may seem like a very niche category, Gabby Franco believes it presents new opportunities for proactive dealers. “Not being involved might not hurt [dealers], but it will limit their growth,” she said.

Gabby Franco: I can confidently say most gun dealers are not involved in the competitive shooting world — missing a demanding market always in need of services like gun customizations, gun cleaning, special orders, along with products such as ammunition, range gear, targets, gun parts, to mention a few. These dealers are missing a great opportunity to learn, provide and market to the competitive shooting community as a whole. Not being involved might not hurt them, but it will limit their growth.

Julie Golob: Most dealers and gun stores do not cater to those who compete in the shooting sports so it’s not just about less gear for women. Most shops focus on CCW and recreational shooting and there’s a reason for that — it represents the largest potential customer base.

Lena Miculek: There’s room for improvement across the board when it comes to retailers supporting the needs of competitive shooters, but dealers should first consider their location and whether it makes sense to target this specialized niche. 

SI: In your experience, what is something these types of stores do well compared to their big-box competitors?

Jessie Harrison: I prefer to shop locally. Independent stores are better at building good relationships with their customer base and listening to their needs. 

JG: Smaller shops are often closely connected to local ranges. With this comes an extra level of customer service and knowledge on exactly what a customer will need to compete in the sports available to them in their area.

SI: What do you think dealers could improve on the most in order to better serve competitive shooters like yourself?

Lena Miculek says one of the best things dealers can do is attend matches in their area
featuring club-level shooters. “These competitors are still learning what gear works for them so that’s where there is the most opportunity,” she lends.

LM: The smaller the niche, the more specific products need to be. The worst thing you can do is stock a store without experiencing competitive shooting sports firsthand. Attend local matches to learn more about the sport and those who are competing in your area. Focus on club-level shooters. Compared to established professional shooters, club-level competitors are still learning what gear works for them so that’s where there is the most opportunity.

JG: I don’t expect my local shop to stock what I need for competition but having someone on staff with the knowledge of what I may need and the ability to order it is one way shops can offer competitive shooters more. It’s the difference between the mentality of “No, we don’t carry that” versus “No, we don’t have it in stock — but I can contact the company and see about putting in an order for you.”

Although you may not stock competition-related products, Julie Golob advises dealers take a proactive approach and place orders for customers for products not in inventory. This mentality can lead to a happy customer — ready to return for a future visit.

GF: Watch female shooters compete and find possible solutions for areas they might struggle such as an upgraded holster, mag pouches or low-recoil ammunition.

JH: When stocking inventory, start with baseline models. Most competitive shooters look for customizable products, so something like the modular-frame STI firearms offer a great starting point to build off. Also, dealers should become members of the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) to receive their magazine Frontsights. Each year following Nationals, they survey all of the competitors and publish a report of all the products each shooter uses including bullets, powder, holsters, mag pouches, optics and sights. It’s basically a shopping list of proven products dealers may want to stock in their stores. 

______________________________________________________________________________

Gabby Franco has been shooting competitively for over 20 years. She was the first female shooter to represent Venezuela in the Olympics. 

Julie Golob is one of the most accomplished professional shooters in the world with more than 140 championship titles. A veteran of the elite U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU), she was named both U.S. Army Female Athlete of the Year and AMU Athlete of the Year.

Lena Miculek has been shooting in competitions since the age of 8 years old. An eight-time world title holder, Miculek won her first World Champion title at the age of 17 at the IPSC Shotgun World shoot in 2012. 

Jessie Harrison was the first female shooter to obtain Grand Master status in the United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). Competing and excelling in five different shooting disciplines, Jessie has won both world and national championship titles. 

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