By C. Ainsley Beeman
Bud’s Gun Shop in Lexington, Ky., has expanded women-only class offerings to great effect. Getting women acquainted with firearms in a welcoming environment makes the gun counter far less intimidating. “If a women feels comfortable, it will often lead to her discussing suitable firearms to satisfy her needs,” lends Doug Ramsey.
Most retailers continuously strive to improve their bottom line by implementing a variety of tactics to increase sales volume. Many are apt to tweak “a little of this, a little of that” while others aggressively try to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Eventually everyone determines what his or her niche in the marketplace will be and settles in for the long haul. As a female concealed carry permit holder and one who frequents gun counters, I can’t help but see a resounding need to address women gun buyers — it’s an overlooked and lucrative niche for every firearms retailer.
Importance Of Empowerment
I’ve been around firearms all my life. Observing my father respect and handle guns for both sport and self-defense as far back as I can remember has created a level of comfort around firearms for me other women may lack. Many reading this article recognize similarities in our upbringing, but as a firearm retailer perhaps you should focus on the last phrase of the earlier sentence — other women may lack. Most women are aware of their vulnerability in certain situations perhaps to the point of fear for their safety or even paranoia whenever alone.
Do these women lack common sense or courage? Certainly not; however, they may initially lack the confidence to carry a concealed firearm and most lack a cordial invitation to an introduction on gun ownership. Those women who associate guns with violence and carnage are seldom gun owners, whereas concealed carry permit holders associate guns with protection and personal safety.
Retail firearm dealers need to do the math and realize a conversion in the mindset of women unfamiliar with firearms is necessary and beneficial for both parties. Bud’s Gun Shop in Lexington, Ky., has implemented this approach effectively. Doug Ramsey, Bud’s director of outreach, education and training, and chief compliance officer lends:
“Even before women approach us, we’re proactive in our outreach campaign to provide education and practical experience for them. To this end we offer an ‘Introduction To Handguns For Women’ class for free. It’s a two-hour session comprised of classroom and live-fire instruction on our private training range. We find while a majority of the participants generally have little experience with firearms, they really enjoy being able to confidently learn in a no-pressure setting alongside those with similar levels of familiarity.
“Following this class, women continue training with us on a one-on-one basis with our instructors, or choose from other classes we offer. We’re currently developing additional women-focused sessions, carry-method seminars and more — including ‘Unarmed Self-Defense Basics For Women,’ a class we hope will attract those who might not be ready to take the step forward to firearms.”
This target audience is fond of options and strives for independence. Perhaps you should consider enhancing their mental checklist to read: purse, keys, cell phone, .38 — and not necessarily in that order.
Tips For Welcoming Women
As a knowledgeable firearm retailer, your goal should be to hone your sales skills toward cultivating a desire among a female customer base to partake in the concealed carry or personal defense options available to them. Equally important are the efforts of your marketing team to make gun ownership attainable — affording this new frontier the ability to flourish.
For example, an effective sales and marketing team can spark a surge in gun ownership through discount pricing or no interest financing for first-time gun owners. When coupled with a “meet and greet, snack and pack” event to introduce key personnel at your store — as well as instructors for planned courses, etc. — the gun counter will seem far less intimidating to women with an interest in firearms. Women will often accept such invitations and bring their spouse, or if not, a couple of intrigued girlfriends.
Get creative, display merchandise and promote your passion for your industry as well as concern for patron safety. Women of all ages and stages in life stand to benefit, and you the retailer play a huge part in this equation.
“If a woman feels comfortable in a very welcoming environment, it will often lead to her discussing suitable firearms to satisfy her needs,” Ramsey said. “Often, we have women who have not attended our classes approach us seeking assistance with firearms — and we are greeting more women expressing interest than ever before.”
We’ve all heard the old adage about how “location, location, location” correlates to a quick sale in real estate. Well the same holds true in “selection, selection, selection” concerning gun sales with women especially. While one or two models may corner the market in practical application, keep in mind women like options. Conversation concerning the pros and cons illustrates your staff’s depth of knowledge and willingness to custom fit a firearm to a specific customer’s criteria.
In addition, be prepared with an excellent answer to the common inquiry, “Which one is right for me?” Recognize early on part of the conversation will parallel discussions with men, but other concerns will be very different. This is your time to shine, i.e., when given lemons, make lemonade.
It stands to reason a conversation with a current female permit holder would enlighten your staff to the concerns of the average woman wanting to purchase a firearm. Their insight is invaluable.
Walk The Walk
Once you have extended an invitation, and minimized the intimidation, concentrate on instilling confidence in their ability as a female gun owner from start to finish: selection, purchase, training, safety, handling, shooting, carrying and self-defense. I admit it can sound overwhelming, but we know it’s not — and it’s our task to convey this concept through education and encouragement. While ultimately it’s her decision whether or not she purchases a firearm or signs up for a class, realize your presentation can be a deciding factor.
Retailers must be prepared to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. If your efforts spawn a growing female customer base, then you’ll most certainly want to nurture that interest with the best of amenities to complement their purchasing decision.
As women, we need access to practical products and you the retailer can provide them for us. On behalf of women everywhere, research and purchase accordingly when you go to market. Successful retailers know access to such products is imperative in supporting a woman’s decision to make concealed carry a way of life.
Alexo Athletica dealer/wholesaler programs are available, contact Amy Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
In The Spotlight: Alexo Athletica
Manufacturers have recognized the potential of “girls with guns,” and excellent products are available to stock on your shelves. One example is a woman-owned business, Alexo Athletica.
Owner and CEO Amy Robbins recently shared with SI, “Alexo is the first active ‘carrywear’ lifestyle brand on the market. We exist to support the Second Amendment and a woman’s right to choose how she will defend and protect herself. We accomplished this by creating functional options for women to stay safe without sacrificing comfort or style while they work out or simply run around in active wear.
“Our products are designed to hold all of a woman’s essentials on body and each piece works together to stylishly conceal whatever it is she chooses to hide. It’s important for retailers to carry these types of products because millions of women are taking a hold of their personal safety and carrying some form of self-defense tool with them on a daily basis. Also, women remain one of the fastest growing demographics in the firearms industry so having products conducive to that lifestyle are a must.”
Being an avid runner, I can attest these pants allow me to run unhindered confidently knowing I’m armed and able to defend myself should the need arise.