By Laura Foster
Adam Gariglietti, manager of John’s Sport Center (pictured here), shared his store makes a concerted effort to highlight female-friendly attire in its social media posts.
With the firearm industry maintaining its strength in this economy, one thing is for certain: A growing number of ladies’ curiosity is piqued as well. Interests vary from sport shooting and hunting to home protection and self-defense. Manufacturers are constantly introducing female-friendly firearms with modifications such as better grips and various color options, as well as any number of shooting accessories. It’s clear countless women are growing intrigued by all things shooting — and retailers are taking notice.
Take for instance Parro’s Gun Shop in Waterbury, Vt., located just off Interstate 89. Owner Henry Parro, who’s run the store for the past 35 years, has witnessed an increase in his female customer base over time — a trend roundly reported across the industry.
“The highest percentage of women we assist are interested in purchasing a firearm primarily for self-defense,” he said. In a rural state like Vermont, it’s easy to understand why. “From what I’ve seen, the majority of women who reside here are sick of being victims. They’re starting to become more aware of their surroundings, and are taking steps to protect themselves. Essentially, they are responsible for their own safety, and we reaffirm this to them as well,” he added.
As one of the largest gun shops in the state, Parro’s has a modern look and feel, is handicap accessible and prides itself on its non-chain-store layout. With an impressive 4,000 square feet of showroom space, he carries a few hot items frequently selling among his female patrons.
“The Ruger LC380 firearm has become very popular, as well as Smith & Wesson’s M&P 380 Shield EZ. Both are comfortable to hold and shoot, making it easy enough to pull the slide back and chamber a round,” Parro explained.
Since hunting is as treasured as a national holiday for many in the State of Vermont, it’s safe to say a majority of households have at least one firearm, and it isn’t uncommon for someone to want to purchase a gun on behalf of a loved one or significant other.
“A big pet peeve of mine is when a guy comes in to buy a handgun for his wife,” he relayed. “In cases like this, with her not physically here to see and handle the products, he’s more likely to choose a gun based on popularity or his own liking, rather than what’s most suitable for her. In my opinion, the best products for women are ones they feel the most comfortable with. We strongly discourage people from buying guns for their wives; the intention is good, but it’s imperative she get a feel first, since she will be the one taking ownership of the firearm.”
Importance Of Safety
Aside from running the shop, Parro has served as a police officer for the past 37 years. With his law enforcement background and expertise, he brings a certain level of credibility to the table when talking about things like lethal force and self-defense.
“There is no ‘Stand Your Ground’ law here, so we really emphasize it’s not only how to shoot, but when to draw your firearm,” he said.
Another helpful approach Parro uses is conducting mini firearm-safety lessons while going through numerous situational scenarios. They also encourage newbie customers to watch certain training videos, as well as enroll in beneficial classes.
“Prior to buying ammo and a firearm leaving our facility, we make sure to open up a dialogue; to learn more about her needs, any previous training she’s had and educate her as best we can before she walks out our door,” he explains. “I really drill it home to my crew that women might feel intimidated their first time here, and their thoughts and opinions are just as important as anyone else’s,” he lends.
Parro has big plans for his store within the next year. “Something I’ve wanted to do for a while now is construct an indoor shooting range and training center. This would be Vermont’s first and only, so this is a big deal and something I hope to make happen soon,” he said. If all permits are approved and everything goes according to plan he’s looking to break ground this fall.
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A Similar Story
Over 1,300 miles away in Pittsburg, Kan., sits John’s Sport Center, a third-generation family-run establishment. This independent local business, surrounded by a large farming community, provided a few strategies on how they’ve been able to grow their number of female visitors.
“We’re located in southeast Kansas, so a majority of women here grew up learning to hunt from an early age. There seems to be an ongoing trend of avid female hunters who eventually gravitate to self-defense. On the other hand, if they’re already familiar with this technique, they tend to show interest in hunting; it’s an even division,” said Store Manager Adam Gariglietti.
Operating out of an old revamped grocery store building since 1976, this brick-and-mortar prides itself on providing exceptional customer service to every single guest, regardless of gender. With its main competitor just beyond the Kansas state line, and less than an hour away, their mission is to set themselves apart from other retailers.
One method they utilize and find effective is an active presence on social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram. It proves to engage not only their male audience, but female as well.
“A good portion of our followers on social media are actually women. We post updates and announcements quite frequently, and make it a point to showcase female-friendly attire, products and fun gift ideas — especially around holidays like Valentine’s and Mother’s Day,” he informed.
Carrying everything from Can Can Concealment holsters to different varieties of pepper spray, this firearm dealer also finds having female staff members seems to create a non-threatening atmosphere.
Gariglietti shared, “Our main concern is they feel confident in whatever they decide to use as a form of protection. With female staff on hand, women come in and feel safe. It’s an overall welcoming environment, which gives guests the comfortable edge we’re striving to achieve, and it’s what sets us apart from big brand names.”