By Doug VanderWoude
The best way to increase activity at your range is, quite simply, to have an activity at your range! We’re getting into the time of year when even the busiest ranges may need to be a little more creative to continue to drive traffic to their facility.
Revisit First Shots
Have you considered hosting an NSSF First Shots event? In my mind, this is one of the best ways to have an activity at your range. You may be thinking “Didn’t we already go down this road a few years ago?” I’m here to tell you, it’s worth another look. NSSF has refreshed this program, addressing the number-one complaint: it needed to be free. (It’s even willing to help you financially.)
NSSF and the First Shot sponsors (Aguila Ammunition, Birchwood Casey and Howard Leight) will supply all the course material — plus eye/ear protection, targets and ammo to get you started. You can now charge attendees with the intention being just enough, so they have skin in the game.
A new feature of this revamped program is participants who take the online survey in the back of the new First Shots handbook will get a reward coupon for $25 to spend at your range, and NSSF will reimburse you! Some ranges are giving discounts on range time or memberships to entice these first-time shooters to come back to their facility. This all sounds great in theory, but does it work in real life? Let’s take a look.
Centennial Gun Club, near Denver, Colo., hosts 30 First Shots students every month — charging $29.95 per attendee. They found 70% of attendees returned to their range, 52% took more classes and 65% purchased equipment. My favorite statistic: 41% of the facility’s First Shot attendees have become monthly paying members. To accomplish this impressive conversion, they offer a coupon for $50 off the initiation fee to become a member.
Keep in mind this didn’t happen overnight: Don’t hold the class once and expect these results. Host the class once a month for a minimum of six months and promote it. (Results may vary: Centennial Gun Club has been offering First Shots a long time, and Dick Abramson and team are a well-oiled machine.) To help you in this endeavor, NSSF is providing co-op reimbursement at a rate of 50% up to $3,000.
Just a quick look at the math shows it’s worth the effort. What other activity could you host with the potential to average 187 more students (52%) in your other, more profitable, classes and just under 150 new members (41%) a year for an event someone else (NSSF) has already done a lot of the work and will pay some of the cost? To get on board, contact Ann Gamauf, NSSF retail and range business development coordinator at email@example.com or (203) 426-1320, ext. 247.
Host An Event
With an onset of nicer weather, consider having events in your parking lot. They can create excitement, build community goodwill and, most importantly, drive traffic. There are many ways to do this and it is limited only by your imagination and size of your parking lot. Be a stop for a charity poker run, making sure to have some nice well-stocked displays near the pickup point. With the trend toward natural, organic foods hosting a farmer’s market would be a good way to attract the public if you have the space.
Tommie Rowland, one of the three owners of Premier Shooting Range and Training Center in West Chester, Ohio, does a great job hosting monthly car shows. For Wheelin’ Wednesday Cruise-In events they experienced a 40% increase in traffic through the door and a 31% increase in retail sales during the event. She gave out 50% off range passes to the participants and saw 70% of those redeemed throughout the summer last year.
Work with your local motorcycle or new car dealer to display some of their vehicles in your parking lot or even in the store. A motorcycle really stands out in a showroom and attracts attention. Ryan Later at Independence Indoor Shooting (Meridan, Idaho) worked with the local Harley-Davidson dealership to display a military-themed bike surrounded by bulk ammunition. Get the vehicle retailer to return the favor and set up a table in their showroom for some cross-business promotion. Even better, partner with the local dealership and provide free range passes when someone test drives a new vehicle at the dealership. If they buy the vehicle they get a free gun (which the dealership pays you for) in a win-win for all.
Seek Out Unorthodox Opportunities
Attend some events and shows where the public doesn’t expect a gun range to be. For years the store I co-founded (Silver Bullet Firearms, Grand Rapids, Mich.) would display not only at sportsperson and outdoor shows, but also home and garden shows and Lake Front Living shows.
At these events we’d rent a 10×10- or 10×20-foot booth, display some safes and promote our training classes and the use of our indoor range as fun entertainment. Some safes had firearms in them, others were set up without firearms, for jewelry, photo albums and other valuables. TV monitors played videos of guests shooting in our range and students engaged in firearms classes. People would stop and watch the videos, many commenting, “I never knew what a range looked like.”
Although we didn’t always sell a lot of product at each show, we exposed our brand and the shooting sports to an audience who probably would have never walked through our door. It also allowed us to showcase the “real” shooting industry — not the one portrayed in the mass media.
On the topic of somewhere the public probably wouldn’t expect a gun range, how about about renting a booth to display at a bridal show? Many ranges are doing this to boost bachelorette and bachelor party bookings. One Phoenix-area range has taken this concept to the next level — or even two or three levels. Vincent Vasquez, owner of C2 Tactical with two stores/ranges, created a separate website to promote his wedding business (www.phoenixshotgunweddings.com).
Vasquez says the site has been good for creating interest and promotion for the firearm and range business. He offers everything for the “Shotgun” wedding a traditional wedding planner would offer — including an ordained minister, flower and photography packages and even a limo service to transport the happy couple. Besides actual wedding ceremonies, they facilitate commitment ceremonies and renewal ceremonies. Of course, no range should offer weddings without packages for rental firearms and full-auto machine guns. One of the packages available through C2 is a “Bonnie & Clyde” package, complete with one full-auto machine gun for the bride and groom.
An area not talked about enough when making an attempt to turn new shooters and those not yet deeply engaged in our industry into customers is having clean restrooms. It’s probably not the first thing to come to mind in the day-to-day, but studies have shown — particularly among women — clean restrooms are important.
Sam Rosenberg, founder of INPAX, a range, shop and training operation in Pittsburgh, really paid attention to these finer details when designing his facility. Rosenberg offers not only male and female restrooms, but also family restrooms, complete with D-Lead soap, artificial flowers and a large mirror. These represent small, but crucial details that’ll make any facility more inviting for new users.
Right now is a good time to take a good look at your operation — in what may be a slower time of the year — and make some changes. Remember, yesterday’s peacock is tomorrow’s feather duster!