Set Your Sights On Profits

Robust Optics Market Adds Year-Round Sales Cushion.

The optics industry is a booming business that only seems to grow each year with advancing technology and an anxious gun-buying public looking to add the latest innovation to their firearm. If you’re not getting your share of profits in this important add-on category, chances are the retailer down the road is. It may be time to evaluate your inventory and freshen up your offerings in optics.

Clay Simmons, president of Simmons Sporting Goods in Bessemer, Ala., says optics complement the offerings at his store and enhance his overall sales.
“Optics are very important to our overall sales as far as making us a well-rounded sporting goods store,” he said. “They’re only about 15 percent of our overall sales but provide a healthy bottom line for us. We carry about 15 different manufacturers in our store.”

Compared to firearm sales, the margins on optics are much more favorable to dealers, said Jeff Chastain, Simmons marketing director.

“Generally speaking, mark-ups on optics can vary — from 40 to 50 percent in the lower-priced scopes to 25 to 30 percent in the upper-end scopes,” he said. “Rangefinders and binoculars markups can vary as well, approximately 40 percent on the less expensive models and 25 to 30 percent on the high-end models. The add-on sales of optics and mounts can greatly increase your earnings on a gun sale.”

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The Burris Eliminator III LaserScope 3-12x44mm features a built-in rangefinder,
capable of ranging reflective targets out to 1,200 yards and non-reflective
targets to 750-plus yards.

Knowledge Is Key

An essential part of growing the optics segment of your business is to know your customers and make sure you have exactly what they’re looking for when they come in for a visit, Simmons explained.

“Selection and pricing is our greatest asset in scopes. Our ratio of hunting scopes versus tactical is about 80/20, so we buy accordingly,” he said.
Chastain pointed out an important part of the Simmons business model is to keep state-of-the-art, high-demand products in stock at a variety of price points.

“The hottest line of scopes for us lately is Vortex; their marketing and advertising has really inspired consumers to come in and ask for their product. They seem to have a riflescope for any application — from hunting to tactical. Entry-level pricing on their Diamondback series scopes is putting more scopes in the hands of hunters and the tactical scopes in the Viper line are in high demand. Other lines of scopes selling well include the Meopta MeoPro and Swarovski Z3, both popular in 4-12×50 size,” Chastain said.

With an influx of new technology, Simmons has noticed a shift in the development of new optics.

“The optics market is growing at a faster pace than previous years,” he said. “With the expansion of more exotic-style crosshairs, tactical-specific innovations and a wider range of magnification, consumers are exposed to a new dimension in scope purchasing. Granddad’s old 3-9×40 has been replaced by the new 5-30×50 illuminated version with more coatings than you can imagine.”

Simmons also sees technology impacting hunting scopes, and predicts sales to increase in this optic subcategory.

“Hunting scopes should be seeing even more growth due to the large customer base available, and with leaps in technologies being more advanced today — as compared to 20 years ago. Optics seem to have no limits,” he said.

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Blending features from Vortex’s Viper PST and Viper HS line of riflescopes,
the new Viper HS-T (Hunting Shooting Tactical) 6-24x50mm will appeal to
tactical customers, as well as hunters.

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Trijicon’s new GEN2 Compact ACOG models feature easy-to-use finger adjusters,
watertight gaskets and a redesigned forged-housing.

Point Of Impact

The best opportunity to sell an optic is at the point of purchase, according to Simmons.

“By far our best chance to sell firearm optics is during the actual sale of a firearm,” he said. “Customers are already in the spending mood and more willing to complete the package to get the right optic while in the store. Fall hunting season is the best time for selling new scopes or binoculars — customers are pumped up to get back in the woods and hunt with their new scope and gun.”

Chastain noted another key to making an optic sale is letting your customers know you have a good selection of the latest optic products they want. This can be done through a variety of mediums.

“We promote our scope sales through newspaper advertising, emails and in-store displays,” he said. “We also display promotional offers from the manufacturer, in addition to the sale pricing we offer at the time. Some of the manufacturers even offer mail-in rebates or free goods at the time of purchase.”

Simmons highlighted the importance of fine-tuning your sales staff to close a sale.

“We’re constantly educating our sales people through manufacturers’ websites, factory reps and sales meetings. Occasionally, factories will hold product-training seminars in town and educate the staff on new items and features. The more your sales team knows, the better their chances of closing a sale,” he said.

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At Simmons Sports Goods, most riflescopes are sold as add-ons to firearms purchases.
Your store’s selection and knowledge of riflescopes will increase sales in this
product category.

Sell To Your Strengths

It doesn’t matter whether your store is small, medium or large, the opportunity for profits on optics sales is available. By tacking on 30 to 35 percent to a sale, your profits will increase. Consider if your store is vertically oriented to the sporting/tactical or hunting markets and your job will be easier if you focus buying and selling in one area.

At Simmons Sporting Goods, they tailor their buying habits to their clientele. The store’s retail floor is 10,000 square feet, with approximately 2,100 feet devoted to firearms and accessories. Simmons and Chastain estimate they sell over 2,000 products in the optics category a year. That’s a lot of glass!

To further encourage optics sales, Simmons offers free scope mounting and boresighting to their customers; they can generally perform the task while the customer is still in the store. Most customers prefer to have their scope professionally mounted and sighted, so this is a great opportunity to endear them to your business. In turn, they’ll tell their friends about their positive experience — which can lead to other new customers.

In addition, don’t ignore other optic categories such as mounts, handgun optics, rangefinders, spotting scopes and game cameras. These add up over time and you may be surprised to find they add more cushion to the bottom line by the end of your fiscal year. The profits are there for the taking; it’s up to you to maximize your potential!
By Pat Covert

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