By Jade Moldae, Editor of Shooting Industry
Consumers Prepping For Extended Stay At Home
I’m not one to write in hyperbole, but in the span of just a few days life has fundamentally changed for millions of Americans grappling with the effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Sporting events, concerts, church services, schools — even bars, restaurants and theatres, in some states — have been cancelled or temporarily closed. Panic-buying is in full force: Grocery stores across the country have experienced widespread shortages in food, water, toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other essentials. Daily briefings from the White House, like President Trump’s March 16 announcement to avoid groups of 10 or more for the next 15 days, are being closely monitored by every industry.
The fear of the coronavirus’ spread has hit the shooting, outdoor and hunting industry, as well. In late February, IWA announced its OutdoorClassics event (held in Nuremburg, Germany) had been postponed from its original March date to early September. In the last week, industry events stateside have been cancelled or postponed — namely, the NRA Annual Meeting (cancelled) and NSSF Congressional Fly-In (postponed). Other regional events critical for industry business have faced similar outcomes, or transitioned to “virtual-only” venues.
View From The Frontlines
On the industry’s frontlines — brick-and-mortar dealers and range facilities — a modest sampling confirms business is indeed on the upswing.
Clay Ausley, owner of Fuquay Gun in Fuquay-Varina, N.C, said January and February were record-breaking months at his store and sales have been further fueled by coronavirus concerns.
“At Fuquay, we’ve been seeing an uptick in business for all of 2020 so far,” he shared. “Coronavirus is hitting hard now, and many are prepping for an extended stay at home. Every good prepper needs plenty of arms and ammunition; we’ve tried to prepare for this by stockpiling ammo — however most shops around us are already running out, and it’s running down our supply quickly.”
Joe Kriz, FMG Publications’ digital content editor and retail associate for Bristlecone Shooting Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo., witnessed a significant influx in sales over the weekend.
“We likely sold more guns in the past three days than we did during our Black Friday sale and GLOCK Days,” he reported. “We’re also low on ammo, as are most gun stores and big-box stores; we’ve resorted to rationing ammo on both retail and the range. The Colorado NICS is slammed with background checks — more than 3,000 of them — and customers are having to wait more than 24 hours to clear. For context, it was just over 100, typically a “bad” day, last Wednesday.”
“With the developments of COVID-19, we’re seeing an uncommon multi-racial consumption on our sales floor and on the range.”
At the Georgia Gun Club in Buford, Ga., General Manager Beth Martin has observed a noticeable shift in customer demographics visiting the store and range over the past week.
“Our first quarter was already shaping up to be a 25% increase for us,” she shared. “With the developments of COVID-19, we’re seeing an uncommon multi-racial consumption on our sales floor and on the range.”
Skyler Thomas, manager of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Freedom Shooting Center echoed the observations from the other stores interviewed here.
“We’re experiencing a significant spike in sales across multiple categories, but specifically ammunition and firearms. We’ve also implemented additional precautions to maintain a sanitary environment, and have advised our team to remain home if they don’t feel well,” he added. “It appears some supply-chain constraints will impact our industry as a whole, but we remain focused on providing the ultimate customer experience for our members and guests at Freedom Shooting Center.
Coverage Intensifies In News Media
Major news outlets have also reported on the recent surge in firearms and ammunition buying. They’ve generated headlines like “It’s not just toilet paper: People line up to buy guns, ammo over coronavirus concerns” (USA Today) and “For Some Buyers With Virus Fears, the Priority Isn’t Toilet Paper. It’s Guns.” (The New York Times).
First-time gun buyers were quoted in both articles, citing potential public safety concerns as a primary motivation for buying. There have also been reports of a rise in firearms ownership among Asian Americans, who have been targeted in hate crimes in response to the virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, late last year.
There are certainly more questions than answers at this point, especially as the fear of contamination and social distancing may threaten in-store traffic. However, in the short term, this buying surge equates to increased profits for dealers. Once things are “back to normal” — hopefully sooner than later — dealers will have an entirely new population of customers to reengage through safety classes, self-defense seminars and other outreach events.
Do These 3 Things
In the interim, make sure you capture email addresses, inform customers how your store is uniquely equipped to meet their needs in this time of uncertainty and have hand-sanitizing stations ready! A little something to keep in mind as we navigate through these turbulent times, together — take it one day at a time.
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