By Massad Ayoob
In a time when many brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to feel the strain of 2017’s overall decline in demand, one source of help may come from the firearms manufacturing segment itself.
Earlier this year, I visited Green Top Sporting Goods in Richmond, Va. I stood there and marveled at the number of people who showed up for Smith & Wesson Day. The store sold so many guns they had to create a production line of sorts to process Form 4473s. At the counters, smiling folks in Smith & Wesson logo shirts explained the subtleties of the Shields and .380 Bodyguards on sale that day. It was something close to heaven for gun sellers and customers alike.
At these events, manufacturers stand ready to support retailers by sending in their representatives to act as ambassadors and spokespeople who will explain their guns to your customers. “Why does Smith & Wesson make their M&P series both with and without thumb safeties?” “Why does SIG SAUER make so many variations on similar themes?” “Why does GLOCK use an octagonal pattern of polygonal rifling on their .45s, instead of the hexagonal style they use on every other caliber?” The reps from S&W, SIG and GLOCK respectively would be happy to furnish authoritative answers to the questions.
The Range of Richfield advertised a Ruger Demo Day with this informative flier, held last October.
Several months after my visit, I spoke with Green Top HR Manager Mike Leach — who shared events like this are important for Green Top’s bottom line.
“We have Ruger Days and Smith & Wesson Days every year, and we’ve done so for quite some time,” he said. “It has always been profitable, and it has always brought a significant increase in customer flow.”
When something works, you keep doing it, and you look for ways to do it “more and bigger.” GAT Guns in Dundee, Ill., exemplifies a success story. Despite its proximity to Chicago — placing it sort of “behind enemy lines” — GAT Guns has grown exponentially over the decades, and services the needs of legitimate gun owners in an area with a very large population base from which to draw. With GAT Guns, the concept of what might be called “Given Brand Gun Day” has evolved over the years into an extravaganza they call Factory Rep Day.
GAT Guns General Manager Randy Potter told SI, “In a given year, we’ll have 30 to 35 representatives present at a time. I think the most we’ve had all at once is 45.”
GAT does not charge a table or entry fee for this huge, demonstrative gathering. They do, however, rely on support from the companies they host.
“On the lower end,” Potter explained, “some companies will throw in some extra magazines with each gun sold at the event, or something like that. What works better is if they give us an additional 5 percent off on the guns in question, we can take another 10 percent off — and this gives the customer a hugely desirable 15 percent discount if they buy during the event. Some manufacturers, of course, are more enthusiastic than others. SIG has been a huge supporter.”
How does this contribute to sales volume? Potter shared, “In one of these promotions, we’ll typically sell 250 to 300 guns over the weekend. There are other dealers who move considerably more. I’ve heard of one dealer who hosts a week-long event of this type, and sells thousands of guns over four or five days. I’m told they use a warehouse-size space to accommodate all the gun manufacturer displays.”
Green Top in Richmond, Va., doesn’t have a range, yet is still highly successful when
hosting “industry days” at its 55,000-square-foot location.
The Question Of Scale
It makes sense to take a conservative approach and start with a one-day event featuring a single manufacturer, so you can see how the concept will work for your particular operation. Earlier this year, I watched Ruger Day at the Range of Richfield in Richfield, Wis. Jim Babiasz, owner of this relatively new facility said “We’ve had very good luck holding a ‘SIG Day,’ a ‘Ruger Day’ and a ‘GLOCK Day.’ We’re going for three of these events a year.”
Even with only one manufacturer represented at a time, Jim says these days are more than worth the effort for the hosting gun shop.
“We experience a significant boost in sales, mainly the models on display and under discussion with the visiting rep. We also noticed for every four new guns we sell during one of those events, we end up taking solid orders for at least one more if we run out of stock,” he added.
Do you need a live-fire range where customers can test-fire the cool new guns your guests from the industry are bringing in for them to drool over? Not necessarily. Live-fire opportunities are a big part of the success of these “manufacturer days” at GAT Guns and Range of Richfield. That said, though, there is no range work at the “gun days” hosted by Green Top in Virginia, and they still experience a great boost in sales. (To see how Green Top beat out its big-box competitors, check out: www.shootingindustry.com/david-goliath.)
A Starting Point
Successful hosts seem to agree the first point of contact should be their particular rep for the particular manufacturer. This is the person who has the best handle on his or her company’s current policy on this sort of event.
Obviously, the manufacturers don’t have enough reps to have these special promotions going all the time at every gun shop in America. Potential sales volume is always critical to the bottom line, according to Babiasz.
“They look for gun shops with some kind of track record. Ruger, for example, will request we have a certain number of specific Ruger guns in the store.”
Conversely, Randy Potter observed, “I’ve talked to reps who’ve been to this kind of event at some other shops, where they said they wasted two days talking to three customers.” Understandably, this isn’t something they want to repeat.
Will this concept work out for you, and for your gun shop? You’ll never know until you try. But if it does become an option, it may give you a powerful infusion of customer traffic and sales — which would be welcome anytime.
Real Avid’s Bore Boss Display
Real Avid is now offering a hassle-free point-of-sale display for the pocket-sized Bore Boss. All 10 SKUs are included, from .22 to 12-ga., with multiple facings of top sellers. In total there are 60 units that come with the free-standing corrugate fixture.
“This Bore Boss display is an easy way to supplement gun sales and create an impulse purchase for consumers,” said Bryant Johnson, Real Avid marketing manager. “We’re seeing great sell-through where it is currently placed.”