How Coronavirus-Fueled Sales Increase Compares To Previous Surges

By Jade Moldae, Editor of Shooting Industry

Editor’s Note: This marks the second article in a special series on how COVID-19 fears are impacting sales in the U.S. firearms industry. The first is available at https://shootingindustry.com/special-report-coronavirus-makes-significant-impact-on-industry-business.

In the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak, dealers are reporting an unprecedented amount of firearms sales at their stores. Shooting Industry continues its examination into how this crisis is impacting sales on the industry’s front line — independent storefront dealers — and how it compares to previous demand surges.

New Buyers

A hallmark of this sales push is many of those rushing the counters of gun stores are first-time customers.

John Phillips, founder of Poway Weapons & Gear Range in Poway, Calif., shared his store has experienced a fivefold increase in first-time buyers — many of whom are from non-traditional groups.

“Out of the massive increase in business, the overwhelming majority are first-time gun owners. Interestingly, many of these first-time buyers had little to zero interest of ever becoming a firearms owner before,” he observed.

At A&P Armory in Magnolia, Texas, Owner Adam Wagner estimates sales are up five to 10 times above average daily totals.

“It’s been great to meet new clients,” he said. “It’s difficult to quantify, but new names in our computer are probably up more than 1,000% compared to normal growth. Much of the increase is a result of new customers and first-time gun owners.”

David Rich, owner of Naples Gun Shop & School in Naples, Fla., noted similar significant figures.

“We’re experiencing somewhere in the area of 1,000% increase in daily sales,” he said. “Daily, we’re selling out of GLOCK handguns, and have to stay up late hours finding available replacements through our distribution network. New customers are now looking at Taurus, SCCY and other brands — basically telling us they’ll buy whatever we have.”

With an unprecedented surge in demand, dealers report having to work after hours to find product.

What They’re Buying

“Shotgun sales are through the roof,” Phillips shared. “We can’t keep shotgun ammunition in stock. Then, it’s home-defense ammunition — hollowpoints specifically. After that, it’s handguns and ARs, in that order.”

Demand for 9mm ammunition has also skyrocketed.

“A surge would be an understatement,” Rich quipped. “We’re almost 100% out of 9mm ammunition, and we expect any new 9mm handguns and the few boxes of 9mm ammo we can get will be sold by the end of the day.”

(Another store in Florida exhausted what would have been — under normal circumstances — about half of a three-month supply on 9mm ammo in just 10 days.)

Wagner has also experienced an uptick in ammo sales.

“We’re sold out of most defensive ammo,” he said. “We still have lots of hunting and oddball rounds. Academy [located roughly 4 miles away], on the other hand, is out of nearly everything.”

How This Surge Is Different

Previous surges — such as what the industry experienced after the tragic school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Dec. 2012 and the run-up to the 2016 presidential election — were fueled by concerns of law-abiding gun owners for political action against firearms and firearms ownership. A different motivation is behind this one.

“I don’t even know where to begin; it’s gone bananas,” said Jacquelyn Clark, owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo. “There are lots of new gun owners as a result of this pandemic. Moving forward, it will be all about how we as an industry bring these new folks in to the fold and keep them engaged via education over the next few months.”

“In the past, we would see a rush of gun buyers over fears of the Second Amendment being infringed upon or taken away. What we’re seeing now is the overwhelming desire for these first-time buyers to own a firearm for personal defense to protect their families,” Phillips noted.

Rex McClanahan, president of Buds Gunshop — with a robust online presence as well as a storefront in Lexington, Ky. — likewise reported an unparalleled spike in sales.

“We’re seeing unprecedented sales of both firearms and ammunition — exceeding any of the political or high-profile, media-driven event surges in the past,” he said.

The impact has been so sudden, one Denver-based retailer was left speechless when asked how it’s affecting his business: “I honestly don’t really know what to say on this one,” he replied.

Social Distancing Factor

As social distancing concerns rise, dealers are adjusting their approach to ease consumer fears.

Openrange Gun Range in Crestwood, Ky., has suspended in-store sales and adopted a curbside pickup model. Owner Barry Laws explained his pragmatic reasoning.

“We feel there isn’t a good way to control social distancing and sanitizing surfaces in the shop (e.g., you have to sanitize every gun touched, whether purchased or not). We’re also not ordering a bunch of firearms, as it’s possible we’ll be closed down completely and don’t want the bills for a ton of inventory,” he shared.

Poway Weapons & Gear has limited store hours to ease the workload on its staff — and allow for additional restocking and cleaning time. Further, it has reduced entry to 10 guests at a time, resulting in a line that often stretches around the 42,000-square-foot facility.

“It’s weird sight when you look out the door and you see everyone spaced six feet apart down the parking lot and almost around the corner,” Phillips noted.

To facilitate a temporary “curbside pickup” model, Openrange shared this map with customers planning a visit.

The End Game

Another way this surge is set to be different from others is it will most likely be temporary.

“I think this will be short-lived, much more so than any of the Obama-era gun rushes,” predicts Adam Wagner, owner of A&P Armory in Magnolia, Texas. “As soon as a drop in infections or progress in a cure is announced — or the zombies crawl back under their rocks — the panic will be over, and maybe followed by a buying slump.”

“Although it’s a ‘feast’ for gun shops this week, I fear next week may be a ‘famine’ — and one that won’t last only a week,” Rich added.

Silver Lining?

As with most crises, there is the paradox of legitimate fears juxtaposed with silver linings. We’ll take a look at some of each as we continue our coverage of how COVID-19 is impacting sales in the U.S. firearms industry — stay tuned.

How is the outbreak of the coronavirus impacting your business? We want to hear from you. Contact the editor direct: editor@nullshootingindustry.com.

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