Setting Sights On Increased Optics Sales

Symbiotic Manufacturer-Dealer Relationship
Forges Fresh Opportunities For Customers

By Keven Russelburg

Optics sales represent an excellent opportunity for retailers to optimize their revenue. However, connecting with the customer and defining his or her needs is the ultimate service a dealer can provide. Currently, the optics market is experiencing some exciting advancements in technologies and electronics. Optics manufacturers have harnessed these innovations and integrated them into their products to meet the needs of an expanding and knowledgeable customer base.

An array of tools exists to allow manufacturers to gauge the direction of the market. Working closely with their dealer network and staying informed on other trending technologies in the industry has proven to be successful. This relationship helps guide the types of products the manufacturer chooses to introduce to the market.

Without close communication with the various segments of the optics industry, trends can often be overlooked or misinterpreted. Some manufacturers are noticing increased activity into specific technologies.

“Rangefinding has been available on scopes for years,” said Duane Sorensen, Sun Optics USA VP of operations. “The latest market trend seems to be ‘first focal plane’ scopes that can rangefind at any power. With the development of new reticles, it’s now easy for the user to accurately determine the range to target.”

Sorenson provided his analysis on why the market has shifted in this direction.

“The market has revisited first focal plane optics for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to the fact it doesn’t matter what power is being used: High and low power work the same. Another leading reason for the rise in popularity is costs have come down and consumers can buy a good-quality product at an economic price,” he said.

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Photo by Burris

Going The Distance

Across the industry, manufacturers have addressed the shift toward long-range shooting by maximizing the performance of today’s rifles, cartridges and modern technology (like ballistic apps). Many dealers have accommodated this swing by offering a deep lineup of riflescopes geared toward long-range shooting.

Several manufacturers offer education to their dealers by conducting in-house instruction at their facility or through seminars and one-on-one training during trade shows and exhibits.

“With the amount of changes taking place at the current rate, it’s important for dealers to educate themselves as much as possible. Researching new trends and technology advancements through industry publications will provide an adequate understanding, but we encourage our dealers to reach out to us directly for in-depth information on specific products or technologies,” Sorenson added.

Always looking to stay ahead of the curve, successful manufacturers are constantly keeping track of what’s next in optics technology advancements. “We’ve seen digital reticles coming in at a reasonable price point, and with that many options are available by simple programming and operator input. Digital reticle technology allows consumers to program changes such as distance, elevation, wind speed, etc. directly on the scope itself,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson also relayed the expansion of this technology could allow for integration between apps on a smartphone and the optic itself — allowing users to communicate and incorporate changes from the device to the scope.

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Pulsar Helion XP50

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Nightforce ATACR F1

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Vortex Optics Fury HD

The Region & The Season

The discussion around what sells well tends to be heavily influenced by the particular regional market where a retail shop is located.

“With a large portion of our rifle sales being the MSR platform, we find our most common optics sold are those to help the sporting shooter at short to medium distances. Iron sights, or back-up sights, are our largest category of ‘optics’ sold by volume,” said Matthew Tyler, VP of development at SafeSide Tactical in Roanoke, Va. “The majority of our customers move right into a flip-up style sight to cover their bases. After that, we see red dots being extremely popular and then moving into scopes in the 1-4 and 1-6 power ranges.”

Tyler identified his store’s top-selling optics, with the SIG SAUER ROMEO red dot a new standout.

“We’ve done very well with the Vortex line, until the last few months when the SIG ROMEO red dot took our market by storm. When comparing Vortex, SIG, EOTech and Trijicon, a lot of our customers find SIG offers a very competitive optic at a much more appealing price. The auto-off feature and extended battery life make it a go-to,” Tyler added.

The majority of SafeSide’s customers are interested in recreation and competition shooting.

“Often, they’re buying similar optics but in different price categories. The competition shooters have a more specific set of criteria and a more well-rounded knowledge base of what they need the firearm and optic to do. Thus, they’re generally willing to pay a little more for something that fits the bill,” Tyler said.

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The information dealers glean from optics manufacturers will impact
how they’re able to approach sales at the counter with end users.

A “Hands-On” Approach

Dealers often display rifles on countertops, making them accessible to the customers. They’ll feature specific optic options installed so customers can see them in action. Retailers with shooting ranges can also offer a variety of optics on rental firearms so customers can try them before they buy.

“We use a few displays to drive attention to our optics, but mostly we put thermal scopes, IR scopes, holographic sights and other optics on guns so people can pick them up, look through them and get a feel for them. We encourage customers to walk them to the back door and look at 3D archery targets in sunlight so they can see what it will look like in the field,” shared Monte Montes, manager at Star Arms LLC in Stephenville, Texas.

By spending time listening to the customer to see what it is they want to do with each firearm, dealers can give advice as to which optic options would do the job the best.

“We start by asking what they’re going to use the optic for and the optimal range they want to use it at — and if they have a budget. This quickly gives us a type and range to start putting in their hands and letting them look through or at,” Montes said. “As far as product use, around here, it’s mostly hunting, but we have some target shooters and long-range guys and gals as well. Inexpensive (relatively speaking) night vision scopes like NiteSite and Pulsar keep hog hunters happy at night. It meets their budget requirements, and allows them to hunt at night with Gen1 or Gen2 capability for under $700.”

The Name Game

Differentiating yourself from the competition not only comes down to excellent customer service, but also involves name recognition. Today, promoting a business involves the use of tools, like social media, to get the word out on a sale, or special pricing on key items previously unavailable.

“The best way to market any business is to market in as many ways possible,” Tyler shared. “We have over a dozen billboards at any time, TV commercials on our local station, newspaper ads and campaign during special events — using direct mail coupons. An easy-to-navigate website, coupled with a responsive and constantly updated social media page, and even a phonebook listing for the folks with time and money who grew up without Google all play an important part. The most important thing about marketing to remember is: You can always buy a customer’s first trip, but the second one you have to earn!”

Despite their advanced technologies and higher price tag, optics are no different than any other accessory when it comes to educating the customer.
Knowledgeable dealers will take the time to understand the customers’ needs and the budget they’re working with and then provide the options to best fit those criteria. This level of service will bring the customer back (thus earning the all-important second visit) and often lead to additional sales through referrals.

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