Seek Out Non-Lethal Options For Additional Profits.
In today’s economy, dollars are tight — which means you need to maximize every moment you’re with a customer in your store to build a relationship and close a sale. You should rely on more than just firearm and ammunition sales; alternative markets in personal defense have the potential to set your store apart from the competition.
Personal-defense customers interested in concealed carry are sometimes limited to the restrictions set by local or state decision-makers. They’re still interested in some form of self-protection and, consequently, many will seek out less stigmatized (in their eyes) or non-lethal alternatives. These will offer them a decent level of comfort at times when they can’t carry their firearm.
Other non-lethal products providing protection, such as knives (a huge industry in itself) and pepper spray, are attractive to these consumers. In addition, there are other personal safety products such as concealment holsters and purses, as well as security devices and mini-safes, all of which have more profitable margins than firearms.
So here’s a question: If you can sell two or three of these products equal to the price of one firearm, but with two or three times the profit, why wouldn’t you? Your sales, clerical and administrative staff are already in place, so the opportunity to increase your sales is only limited to your time, effort and investment in stocking new products.
Choosing the right stock in personal-defense and safety products is critical, so you’ll need to start by tailoring these to your current customer base. Your retail establishment may be a pure shooting sports or tactical/personal-defense store — or it may be more complicated than that. You may have a mix of each or just a stronger lean either way. We visited two very different types of firearms retailers to get an idea of which personal-defense and safety products they have the most success with, and how they’ve added extra profits to the bottom line.
The new Bianchi Ranger Sporting Series of holsters feature a
600-denier ballistic weave exterior for abrasion resistance.
Each holster fits several different gun models for added utility.
Mini-safes, like those from the Winchester eVault line,
provide dealers with higher margins compared to firearm
and ammunition sales.
Zero-In On Selection
Simmons Sporting Goods in Bessemer, Ala., started out as a pawnshop in 1945 and became a firearms retailer in 1972. They’ve been very successful ever since.
“In describing our customer mix, I would probably break down the firearm sales of the two categories: about 60 percent personal defense and 40 percent sporting,” said Jeff Chastain, Simmons buyer. “While carrying a full line of firearms, we also carry concealment purses, knives, pepper spray and mini-safes.”
Chastain said knives and pepper spray are consistent sellers at Simmons, with mini-safes bringing the highest returns.
“Knives and pepper spray are the highest units sold on a daily basis, but mini-safes are the largest dollar volume our customers spend in these sub-categories. The mini-safe lines seem to have the largest growth in recent months simply because our consumers need handgun protection and safety both at home and in their vehicles,” he said.
By contrast, Hoover Tactical Firearms in Hoover, Ala., is — as the name implies — all about personal defense. Consequently, their products are much more focused. Their entire retail space is devoted to handguns, long guns, ammo and accessories — and they also have an indoor range to complement their operation.
“I would describe the customer mix of our store as ‘everything under the sun’,” said Kerry Bradley, Hoover general manager. “We have an equal amount of women and men shoppers. Shooters desiring a firearm for personal defense represent the largest segment of our customer base.”
According to Bradley, concealment holsters and purses have a strong sell-through rate at Hoover Tactical.
“Our number-one sellers beyond firearms are concealment holsters and purses, after that is pepper spray,” he adds. “The best selling concealment holsters right now are from a company called L.A.G. Tactical — they’re great Kydex holsters made by a great bunch of folks. It’s a versatile holster that can be worn inside and outside the pants on your belt.”
The EAA Pavona Concealed Carry Purse has hook and loop attachments,
allowing for user-unique gripping and retrieval styles.
Jeff Chastain (left) and Mike Jones, Simmons Sporting Goods buyers,
examine a biometric mini-safe from GunVault. Adding mini-safes to
end caps can promote additional impulse sales.
Capture Profits In Changing Market
Profit margins on firearms and related products will vary from store to store due to a variety of factors such as mean income, geographic location and local competition — so on a grassroots level, developing a dedicated customer base through personal service and targeted product has a huge impact on sales.
Both Simmons Sporting Goods and Hoover Tactical Firearms have had many years to build their customer bases and are firmly entrenched in their trade areas. Over time, through trial and error and keeping up with a shifting firearms market, these two stores have been able to hone in on products that sell and, in turn, generate profits.
“Generally, personal-defense and safety products allow much greater profit margins compared to firearms and ammo sales,” Chastain said. “Firearms margins, whether sporting, tactical or personl defense, are generally very low in this business — due to the competitive nature of the retail firearms industry.”
Chastain broke down the numbers, showing how the sale of alternative defense products can create tremendous jumps in profit.
“In many cases where firearms margins are only 15 percent to 22 percent, your alternative personal-defense products can generate a 30 to 40 percent margin. Pepper spray in most cases will provide a 50 percent margin of profit and holsters and concealment purses will generate a healthy 50 to 60 percent margin. Last but not least, tactical-defense knives and everyday-use pocket knives can deliver 60 to 70 percent margins,” he said.
According to Bradley, Hoover Tactical finds generous profits in their concealment holsters and purses.
“To really capitalize on holsters, you have to have products that fit a wide variety of guns. Don’t focus on different styles. Focus on having as many holsters as possible to fit different guns. Given the tight competitive margins on firearms and ammo, we find the profit margins are bigger on the holsters and purses than pepper spray and Tasers. Holsters can be as high as 40 to 50 percent, as well as purses,” he said.
The New User Kit from SABRE Red introduces non-lethal customers
to pepper spray as a personal-defense option.
Trigger A Thought
No matter if your store has a broad customer base like Simmons Sporting Goods, or a more focused one like Hoover Tactical, there are a number of opportunities in personal-defense and safety product sales. Taking the time to promote them in-store and in local advertisements can help build and sustain interest from customers.
“End caps make great displays for impulse sales on pepper spray and mini-safes, while personal-defense knives require more personal selling. They are placed in a more prominent location next to the tactical firearms to target MSR-tactical customers for an add-on sale. We also promote the mini-safes in our local ads periodically and place the less expensive ones through our holster department just to trigger a customer’s thought,” Chastain said.
Instead of focusing solely on firearms, Chastain recommends dealers should diversify their product lines for additional profits.
“Selling firearms is great for keeping the lights on and paying the bills, but secondary sales of alternative personal-defense and safety products is where retailers need to place more emphasis in order to add more to their bottom line at the end of the year,” he said.
If the results from these two very different storefronts are anything to go by, then it would be for your benefit to consider adding non-lethal personal defense products and accessories strategically throughout your store.
By Pat Covert
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