Secure Sales From First-Time Buyers
By Carolee Anita Boyles
One key aspect of gun safety is secure storage. Whether a gun owner is storing his or her firearm in a residence, business or in a vehicle, there is a wide range of options available. Brian Bourgoin is the hunting and gun department manager at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. He’s seen an increase in customer interest in safe gun storage at his store.
“Our customers are looking at a variety of security solutions ranging from full-size gun safes in the home to small bedside storage for emergency access — and also for when they have to securely lock their gun in their vehicle,” he said.
While laws governing concealed carry in a vehicle require the handgun to be under the owner’s control, Bourgoin pointed out “there are many places where concealed carry is prohibited.” This, he said, means a firearms owner would need to leave their gun locked out of sight in the vehicle — which creates its own set of problems.
“People realize the average vehicle’s glove box provides little in the way of security. It’s often difficult to put one of the lockable gun boxes under the seat due to automotive electronics that limits the space available. I think this is an area where the industry could develop better customer options for in-vehicle storage,” he added.
Customers are buying a lot of home security solutions as well, according to Bourgoin.
“The brands of safes we sell are American Security, Sports Afield, Cannon, Rhino Ironworks and Bighorn, Heritage, Winchester and Stack-On,” he said. “On the small side of things, we also sell GunVault and Liberty Quick Vault lines. When it comes to travel, if you’re just going to the range or traveling on commercial airlines, we carry a range of nylon soft padded and hard-sided aluminum or plastic travel cases.”
Bourgoin said Outdoor Emporium relies on more than just sales floor exposure to sell gun safes.
“We participate in a variety of community awareness programs to promote gun safety such as Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Free Safe Gun Storage Giveaway Events,” he said. “Here, the public can come and learn about safe gun storage and get a free lockbox or trigger lock. We’re also a member of the King County LOK-IT-UP Program that promotes the safe storage of firearms by saving customers 10–15 percent off select storage devices or lockboxes. When you combine that with the fact there’s no sales tax on guns safes in Washington State, there are a lot of incentives for customers to secure their firearms.”
Fort Knox Vaults
Who Are Today’s Safe Customers?
In Oklahoma City, Miles and Jayne Hall owned H&H Shooting Sports for over 30 years. In that time, Miles observed a recent change in safe buyers.
“They’re younger, and they’re very conscious about securing their items,” he said. “And it’s not just guns they wanted to secure. The guns are obvious, but then they talked about putting their coin collection, stamp collection, jewelry and special photos in the safe as well.”
Miles said these buyers want more than just a steel box to store guns and other items in.
“They want the amenities,” he noted. “They’re looking for something that’s well built, and is almost like a piece of furniture. They also don’t argue about the cost. These customers do a lot of research, and they want something pretty and durable.”
Jayne pointed out another trend the Halls noticed in their store: “Customers would buy the small safes and put their important papers in them, and then put them in the bottom of the big safe. That’s double protection for the things they really need to take care of. It’s like their own safety deposit box but they don’t have to go to the bank to get to it.”
Jayne identified Liberty and Browning as the store’s most popular brands. “H&H also carries Winchester and Fort Knox,” she added.
Miles pointed out several reasons for the shift in who’s buying safes. “The biggest reason is the audience has dropped in age. These customers find out information differently than the older audience does.
It’s obvious to them what’s good product and what’s not good product. It’s amazing to me that young people are so adamant about protecting their stuff,” he said.
The Halls also observed a lot of sales in small safes for bedside or other quick access locations.
“It’s often a customer’s first purchase,” Miles said. “A customer may come in for one of those, and then when he’s done his homework decides he wants a bigger one.” These customers are also interested in biometric safes, including finger swipe models.
“We’d sell more of the finger swipe safes than we do anything else in small, quick-access safes,” Miles said. “If you think about it, the customers who are buying these safes are from the same audience that uses finger swipes to activate their iPhones.”
Getting the word out about what is currently available at your store, Miles said, is all about education and communication.
“What worked best for us was television, newspaper and radio,” he observed. “We found our ads that push a sale don’t do nearly as well as an ad that educates the buyer with a good price. We explain all the benefits and then say ‘It’s normally $2,995 but we’re running a special for $2,500.’ It’s a better pitch for us. These customers aren’t as much bargain hunters as they are quality hunters.”
Miles also disseminated infor-mation on Facebook and on the store’s website.
A “Safe” Delivery
Mike Cowan, owner of Cowan’s Guns & Ammo in Basin, Wyo., said his biggest storage sellers right now are home safes.
“In our area, we’re dealing a lot with people breaking into houses for drugs, or for money, jewelry and guns,” he said. “It’s getting to the point now people are buying safes just to put their prescription medications in them. In fact, one of our local pharmacies was broken into a year or so ago, and what saved them was all their narcotics were locked into a gun safe.”
All of this is creating a new market for gun dealers who carry safes. When a customer purchases a safe, Cowan said, he makes sure it gets delivered to the person’s home.
“What I have in my store is demonstration models, so the person can come in and select what they want,” he said. “We usually do a custom order, because most customers want to change things just a little bit. Then the safe comes in on a delivery truck. The delivery truck drops it at the person’s house and sets it on the porch with a pallet jack. Then it takes three or four of us to actually move it into the house and put it where the person wants it.”
H&H also provides a delivery service for safes, which has grown into a considerable success for the store in winning business.
“We have all the right equipment, and the right delivery truck,” Miles said. “The truck has no markings on it because when you’re delivering a safe to someone you want it to be like you’re delivering a piece of furniture. When I owned H&H, the department I got the most compliments on was my delivery crew.”