By Ashley McGee
A Girl & A Gun (AG & AG) operates with an emphasis on recreation, education, competition and community. AG & AG’s mission statement outlines its aim “to educate and encourage women about firearm usage, safety and promote women’s shooting interest and participation in the competitive shooting sports.”
It’s no secret women are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the shooting industry, but to understand how much you should prioritize marketing your business to this segment it’s important to quantify it.
Census data estimates a total U.S. population of more than 327 million as of July 1, 2018. Consider an estimated 51 percent are female, and of those approximately a quarter are under the age of 18. Using advanced math, this means there are roughly 125 million adult women in the U.S. Only one out of every five women reports she owns a gun. What do these numbers mean? Well, in one word — opportunity. We know there are potentially more than 100 million women who don’t own a firearm.
As a firearms dealer, one of the easiest ways you can market your business to women is to partner with a women’s shooting organization. Here are some helpful tips if you’re interested in becoming a host range.
Choose An Organization
There are a variety of women’s shooting organizations throughout the country. Some are national organizations with state or local chapters such as A Girl & A Gun or The Well Armed Woman, while others are more localized such as the Arizona Women’s Shooting Associates or NYC Women’s Shooting Sports League.
If you’ve never hosted one of these groups at your range, your first step should be to find out if any of them have an established presence in your area. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel and start a new chapter if there is already an organized group of women interested in learning more about firearms. This will help save you both time and resources. (But, perhaps a partnership could be on the offing.)
While your business will undoubtedly benefit, it’s important to consider what you have to offer a women’s shooting club. What makes you an appealing host range versus your competitor? Education and safe shooting practices are the foundation of these groups, so having ample classroom space in addition to an indoor or outdoor range is ideal.
The Summerville/Charleston Chapter of The Well Armed Woman hosts monthly events at two different ranges. Shoot Logic in Reeseville, S.C., is a privately owned outdoor training facility. This allows the chapter to cover a wider variety of topics and training opportunities such as moving and shooting drills.
They also host events at Palmetto State Armory — a retail store with a 25-yard indoor range, including two separate bays with 18 total lanes.
“With Shoot Logic being a private facility, we don’t have to worry about what other shooters may show up at the same time as our meetings,” said Angela Panish, the chapter’s co-leader. “However, our meetings at Palmetto State Armory tend to have higher attendance partially due to geographic location, but also because our monthly meetings coincide with their weekly ladies’ night.”
Logan Richardson, marketing manager of Palmetto State Armory, shared the partnership with The Well Armed Woman has been so successful at the store’s Summerville location they started a new chapter at their Columbia, S.C., location in January 2018.
“The gun industry can be quite intimidating, especially to new shooters or those who have not been around firearms,” said Dale Arnold, general manager of The Firing Pin Gun Shop & Range in Clovis, N.M.
Even before becoming A Girl & A Gun host range in fall 2018, the New Mexico-based company focused on creating an environment where people feel comfortable and safe at all times. This includes employing female staff members who are available to assist female customers should they prefer.
“We also keep our facility very clean,” Arnold relayed. “Our state-of-the-art ventilation system circulates the air and filters it every 45 seconds to ensure a safe and clean shooting environment.”
The facility is also equipped with full bathrooms that include showers and lockers, “which can be great for women who may come before or directly after work or have plans immediately after shooting on our range,” he said.
Understand Your Responsibilities
Before becoming a host range for any shooting organization, be sure to understand what your responsibilities are. Both A Girl & A Gun and The Well Armed Woman requires every chapter have a certified instructor at all events, meaning you do not have to provide an instructor. However, you’ll want to have a range safety officer on hand and make sure your rentals counter is adequately staffed as not every meeting attendee will own or carry her personal firearm.
Ask the organization how many women typically attend each meeting to ensure you have enough shooting lanes and hearing/eye protection available. This can help determine whether you need to close your range to the public during the organization’s meeting.
“We currently host one meeting and one practice league night per month,” said Jeffrey Duenk of Blackhawk Shooting Sports in Oostburg, Wis., who recently become a host range for A Girl & A Gun. “We dedicate half of our lanes to the club and keep the other half open for shooting.”
Don’t Lead With A Sales Pitch
If she isn’t already, every woman who attends one of these meetings has the potential to become a customer. But, have restraint and don’t lead with a sales pitch. Female buying behavior differs significantly from men.
Your priority should be providing a safe, welcoming environment staffed with knowledgeable employees. Train your team to learn more about what sparked a woman’s interest in firearms.
Pew Research data from 2017 revealed 27 percent of women say personal defense is the only reason they own a gun at all, rather than for sport shooting or target training (although, as you know, those customers are prevalent, too).
Many female gun owners who own a gun for protection also have deeply personal experiences that led them to the purchase that may include physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence or stalking.
Understand their motivations, have patience and compassion when answering their questions, and once trust and credibility are established, a sale will often follow. Or at the very least, she’ll be inclined to tell all her girlfriends about the positive experience she had.
For information on these two organizations, visit: www.agirlandagun.org, www.thewellarmedwoman.com