Secure Sales With Add-Ons In This Crucial Category
by Kevin Russelburg
As a firearms retailer, you have the opportunity to get to know your customers when they come in to make a purchase and answer any questions — while making dependable recommendations. Storage solutions represent a great add-on item, especially for first-time gun buyers.
Asking questions about how your new customer plans to store her firearm or how he intends to protect those who shouldn’t have access to a firearm are a couple of ways to exhibit the importance of responsible gun ownership, as well as showcasing your product offering.
Expanding Sales Means Understanding
Retailers understand the importance of expanding sales through accessories. Having a variety of storage offerings for each purpose such as range gear, vehicle and home storage solutions at different price points will address the uses for a wide variety of customers.
Although handgun and rifle safes are most common, other opportunities such as ammo cans represent a big selling item. They’re low-cost products, and can easily be packaged with various types of ammo to attract many customers to fulfill a need at the same time. The metal, surplus, military .50-caliber can is desirable for many consumers, but other options — like the Plano plastic version — sell well, too.
“Don’t be afraid to try new offerings from manufacturers. Customers often come into gun shops to find something they want, but a lot of times end up with something they didn’t realize they needed yet. If you keep the same old stuff all the time, people will get bored with your shop,” said Al Minneman, VP of marketing at MTM Case-Gard. MTM has been making products to fulfill this consumer segment for nearly 50 years.
Regardless of which storage solution you offer, the key to expanding sales is to know your customer’s needs and keep those products in stock.
“Smaller safes, traveling cases and ammo carriers make great ‘candy aisle’ items to present to customers as an up-sell or add-on to their purchase,” said Nate Geimer, a proprietor in Fort Wayne, Ind.
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One Size Does Not Fit All
Due to the size and weight of most safes, retail operations will have sections exclusively set up for them and other storage solutions. Smaller, one- or two-gun safes (such as those from GunVault and SnapSafe) will appeal to new buyers; they can be labeled as a “starter safe.” You can then explain to customers, as their collection of firearms expands, the smaller safe can still be used for a variety of things — such as personal items like jewelry, cash and other valuables.
In addition to keeping firearms and ammunition safely stored in the home, consumers who visit the range or embark on a hunting trip will have the necessity to safely transport these items.
“I’d say the best way to explain this is to just look at our sport or hobby: This is not a sport you can totally keep in your basement,” Minneman relayed. “The shooting sports require safe, reliable transportation of all types of shooting equipment — to and from the range or hunting grounds. Since most of us can’t shoot every day, we have to store our equipment thoughtfully, so we can retrieve it the next time we go to shoot.”
Furthermore, there are several ready-made solutions you can offer to make it easier on customers who want to store their ammunition properly.
“Shooters also have to know what ammo they’re putting in their firearm or they are heading for disaster. Keeping ammo in the original box and properly stored is the key to avoiding this issue,” Minneman said.
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Just like the firearms they purchase, some customers are very particular about which safe and storage manufacturer they buy, but many are simply looking for safety and security. High-end brands with extreme fire ratings will appeal to some customers, but the majority simply look for safety, so including brands offering economic versions (like Stack-On) sell very well at an attractive price point.
“Large Winchester Safes (26-gun, 50-gun) seem to sell as the prices are well within reach of most consumers. Smaller gun safes such as Bulldog, GunVault and Hornady are common sellers as they offer a wide variety of options and price points to fit each consumer’s budget,” Geimer noted.
Paper vs. Prepper
Hunters look for bulk storage and weather resistance. Competitive shooters are particular about their ammo, so they need good ammo boxes for organizing their reloaded ammo. Collectors demand good storage.
“There’s an old saying: ‘Hunters don’t shoot, shooters don’t hunt and collectors don’t hunt or shoot.’ Many people say they do all three, but if they really look at themselves, they spend more time doing one than the others.
For this reason, we have to make products for all three types of people,” Minneman shared.
The self-defense and prepper segments have grown substantially in the past several years. They typically look for easy-access storage for when trouble arises.
“These particular groups are great early adapters to newly released products. They’re the first people to review products on YouTube and different review sites. The only drawback to this category is a large percentage of them are what I call gun owners, but not necessarily gun shooters. Therefore, you need to continuously develop new customers to keep up sales with them. New products are very important in this category,” Minneman stated.
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Keep Them Coming Back
Informed dealers will get to know their customers and establish a relationship to keep them coming back. Encourage customers to not merely become gun ‘owners,’ but to become gun ‘shooters.’ This differentiation will make a significant impact in revenues because they’ll require a consistent replenishment of supplies — with storage products a viable option.
“We’ve found success in securing repeat customers by becoming ‘a source of knowledge’ for our customers to tap into — regardless of whether or not they’re buying at that given moment. The idea is to give them a place to get questions answered regarding reloading, firearms, accessories and so forth,” Geimer added. “In most cases, we’ve found the customer will come back and convert the sale. This helps build trust and a business relationship for future sales.”
A “Safe” Buy
There are many opportunities for dealers to promote and sell additional items in this segment. Engaging in a discussion and finding out your customers’ needs is the key to unlock those additional sales. Responsible gun ownership involves safety and security, so maintaining a variety of storage solutions to accommodate the various essentials at a range of price points will keep your customer base coming through the doors.