Dealers Promote Community Involvement,
Safety Mindset For Customers
By Jade Molde
If you’ve read Shooting Industry consistently over the past few months, you’ve likely encountered a column or feature touting the importance of positive relationships in your community. Earlier this year, the March issue’s Personal Defense Market column spotlighted several dealers who have made charitable donations to local organizations, leading to stronger relationships in the community.
Just last month, in Arms & The Woman, another dealer’s efforts to introduce a Boy Scouts troop to the shooting sports illustrated how engagement with the community can successfully bring new faces into the sport. In fact, Marc Steinke, co-owner of the Salida Gunshop, summed it up succinctly: “You have to create ways to be accepted in the public eye and show shooting is a safe sport.”
These are just two examples (of many) that reveal how cultivating, and then maintaining, a positive relationship with your local community can bring extensive benefits. This can be further enhanced if your store is known to promote firearms safety. As a brick-and-mortar dealer, you’re uniquely positioned to be the local, familiar “voice” promoting safety and responsible training.
We were able to speak with two retailers who were recently recognized as “Local Champions” in promoting firearms safety by NSSF’s Project ChildSafe S.A.F.E. Summer campaign: Jared Sloane, strategic operations manager of Shoot Smart, which has locations in Ft. Worth and Grand Prairie, Texas, and Todd Lockburner, co-owner and general manager of Magnum Shooting Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Both retailers highlighted the importance of introducing new customers to the safety mindset.
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Be Aware Of The Need
There’s an important first step in discussing safety with customers, according to Sloane. “Teaching safety and making people aware of it is really critical. It’s important for people to understand why firearm safety is vital for firearms ownership. It’s more about awareness more than any particular tip or rule of safety — being aware of the need is first and foremost,” he underlined.
Lockburner says the majority of his store’s members are new shooters, and they became members after becoming more interested in firearms safety.
“Our motto here is ‘Learn Right. Be Safe. Shoot Well.’ and our members have responded very well to it,” Lockburner said.
Sloane shared Shoot Smart has had an influx of “entertainment” customers, and the store guides them carefully.
“We get a lot of people coming in just for an entertainment value so they’re not interested in sitting through an hour-long safety lecture, which is why we don’t require one. We want to capitalize on their enthusiasm right away, and this is where having a strong, alert and astute team comes in handy,” he said.
Being the daily face of the industry, Sloane said it’s important for dealers to showcase safety for their customers.
“We don’t do anything different from anyone else. But I do know — like many ranges out there — we’re trying to keep the conversation alive about why people are there at the range. We recognize their level of interest, and talk to it concerning safety,” he added. “We need to be carrying the message on firearms safety; that’s our job. We know what it entails, not the anti-gun organizations.”
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Shoot Smart and Magnum Shooting Center have each reached out to their respective communities and enhanced local interest in learning about safety.
“With the green light from our company owners, Cassie Shockey, our customer programs manager, and I got together with Project ChildSafe and created a presentation,” Sloane said. “We then partnered with a police department at a local community college and have since used their campus locations and our stores to offer seminars on firearms safety.”
These seminars have been well received, and Shoot Smart aims to expand the program to other demographics in 2017.
“We’ve had a lot of support and feedback from people. What we’d like to do is reach out to more groups on an individual basis: such as Boy Scout troops, church groups and community organizations,” he said.
Shoot Smart has also creatively raised money for Project ChildSafe, Sloane said.
“We did an experimental round-up drive — without promoting it — to see if our teams could work with the concept. It was a success, raising a few hundred dollars in small increments at a time,” he noted. “At the end of each firearms transaction, we’d ask the customer ‘Do you want to round up to the next dollar and donate the spare change to Project ChildSafe and safety awareness for families?’ For the most part, customers would say yes.”
At Magnum Shooting Center, each summer consists of a push to increase safety that reaches out to the whole community.
“Our biggest safety push is something we call the Summer of Safe Shooting (SSS), and we give away thousands of training classes,” Lockburner said. “Last year, we gave away 2,000 firearm safety classes for adults or youth, and this year we did so again and also gave away 500 concealed carry classes.”
During SSS, Magnum Shooting Center partners with several local radio stations, who give away these classes to select callers. When asked about the local community’s response, Lockburner said simply: “People love it.”
As part of this summer-long promotion, Magnum Shooting Center hosts outdoor events, which include live music and food and is done to incorporate a manufacturer. Guests can interact with company reps, get free range time and participate in product demos. According to Lockburner, sales from the featured manufacturer’s products increase “substantially.”
“We give away a lot of classes, a lot of time and spend a lot of money advertising to strictly give back to the shooting sports and our community with no intention of profit. It’s important for more businesses to do this, whether it’s a retail-only or retail/range establishment,” he added.
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It Starts With The Youth
“It seems like if you can get the kids interested in the safety aspect, it can lead to new opportunities,” Lockburner observed. “We’ve put on several full-week youth summer camps and parents will send their kids, even if they’re not big shooters or gun buyers, because they want their kids to get some type of education with firearms.”
These safety classes have “opened the door” for a positive interaction with parents at Magnum Shooting Center.
“By getting the parents to bring their kids in, you get the interaction where you can talk with them; it seems like it engages them much better. Then, they’ll walk through your facility, your training area so they’ll get to see what you have to offer where otherwise they wouldn’t even have come to your facility,” he added.
Lockburner says his staff plays a critical role in encouraging repeat customers.
“Anytime we get someone to come through the door, we want them to see how open and inviting we are, how friendly the staff is and everything we have to offer. You have to have a really good staff that has their heart in it and enjoy what they do,” he said.
In an encouraging trend, both stores have seen an uptick of families training together in recent months.
“We see young adults in the 13–15 age range take classes with their parents,” Lockburner observed. “We also offer private classes, so they can set up a family-only class or take a class with friends.”
“We’ve had several stories of families coming together and shooting together — and becoming a stronger unit. We love seeing things like that,” Sloane added.
Todd Lockburner (center) and the Magnum Shooting Center team have made inroads
in their local community by hosting week-long youth camps each summer. Also
pictured, Kim Shugart (far right), co-owner, and employee David Copeland (left).
Products For First-Time Buyers
Magnum Shooting Center has 4,000 square feet of retail to complement its range and classroom space. Lockburner’s store ensures new customers are properly outfitted.
“We encourage new customers to purchase hearing and eye protection when they make their first firearm purchase. We try to educate them on everything they’re going to need with the firearm — explaining things like how target ammo is different from self-defense ammunition, why they’re at different price points and the purpose for using each,” he said.
When discussing add-on products with new customers, Sloane says Shoot Smart sells the benefits of hearing protection.
“One thing we like to share with customers is: the better hearing protection you have, the more fun you’re going to have. You can go out and shoot longer and you won’t wince/blink each time you pull the trigger,” he said.
“Eye and ear protection is an easy sell. We’ve found our customers with very little experience are looking for real basics, like clear eyeglasses and standard over-ear muffs,” Sloane noted. “New shooters are primarily concerned with the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). Walkers and Howard Leight have the NRRs we like, and they sell well.”
Sloane added once these new customers become established shooters, they commonly customize their safety equipment to add some “unique flair.”
One welcome strong seller at Shoot Smart’s two locations is Walker’s hearing protection for children.
“Walker’s hearing protection for kids is a great seller, and it comes in excellent packaging. Even though we don’t allow toddlers on the range, parents still buy them,” he noted.
Lockburner reports his store sells a lot of electronic earmuffs — with it being a common upgrade purchase.
“Our customers tend to start with something economical. Once they start shooting more they’ll gravitate toward higher-end products like electronic earmuffs,” he said.
Sloane has observed a similar trend, saying: “We sell a lot of electronic over-ear muffs; they’re popular because people like to chitchat while shooting.”
When it comes to range rental programs, Sloane said his store makes good use of distributor offerings.
“We take advantage of range programs through our distributor for the most part. We go through AcuSport’s range program for some of our range rentals, not all,” he added.
For safe firearms storage, Lockburner said the Winchester line of safes, as well as smaller GunVault models, “sell well” at Magnum Shooting Center. Shoot Smart also carries the GunVault line of products.
Dealers, how have you enhanced safety in your local community? We want to hear from you, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.