By Jade Moldae
With 2019’s fall hunting and year-end buying season near, we wanted to get the input from a few retailers to see what categories are performing well at their stores and general buying habits exhibited by customers. In addition, we asked them to share some of their tips for success in the slower summer months.
Offering lighter recoil to recoil-conscious
customers and reduced over-penetration in self-defense scenarios, pistol-caliber carbines (PCC) have grown in popularity. Several manufacturers have a presence in this category — including Ruger, Hi-Point, KRISS USA, CZ-USA, Rock River Arms, Kel-Tec and CMMG, to name a few — enabling customers to have long-gun options in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45
ACP. (Evidence of further development, LWRCI introduced its first-ever PCC, the SMG-45, early July.)
“Even though most MSRs are slow, pistol-caliber carbines and pistol-braced MSRs seem to be driving sales in that category for us,” said Chad Converse, manager at Sprague’s Sports in Yuma, Ariz.
The pistol-caliber growth trend received further confirmation earlier in this issue, with Neal Bland, owner of Gentry’s Firearms in Harned, Ky., sharing: “We actually end up selling a lot of 9mm AR
platforms for home defense. You still get the manageability and the ease of use in a long-gun platform. I’d say we sell an AR 9mm variant probably five- or six-to-one over anything in 5.56/.223.”
The steady rise of 10mm handguns has resulted in significant market share gains at T&L Tactical Firearms & Range in Manitowoc, Wis.
“Right now, customers are big into 10mm pistols,” says Laurie Fettig, T&L co-owner. “We’ve had to compensate by increasing our selection of 10mm pistols and ammo. I see this as the hottest ticket right now, and customers are loving the GLOCK and Springfield 10mm pistols the best.”
Customers Buying On Price
Price and value continue to be key components to securing a sale. Clay Ausley, owner of Fuquay Gun in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., says simply: “Price seems to be what customers are chasing right now.”
Chase Chambers, national sales manager for Shot Spot in Carrollton, Ga., has seen programs offering unique products at attractive price points gaining steam among his customers.
“We’ve noticed a large spike in LEO sales, through the Zenith HERO, GLOCK Blue Label and Kel-Tec HERO programs. They’ve been fantastic selling products this summer,” he noted. “It comes down to the price point being advantageous or a mixture of pricing/availability within these programs — which allow consumers to access previously unavailable guns.”
Although the summer stretch represents a historically slow period for the industry, Ausley shared what his store is doing to stay profitable.
“For us, mid-April through mid-August is our slower time of the year, so we plan accordingly. This is a great time not to sit on our hands but to push for more,” he said. “During these slower months, we tend to see an increase in sales in whatever we’re pushing at the time because we’re more focused on the mission.”
Classes and events are ready-made options for dealers, also — with both Chambers and Fettig revealing encouraging trends currently impacting their businesses.
“What has piqued my interest this summer is hosting competitive shooting matches; the most popular by far has been GLOCK Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF). We’ve seen spikes in every aspect of our business during the times we host these events,” Chambers relayed.
“I’ve seen a significant upswing in the number of women taking classes, private instruction and purchasing handguns. We average 50% female participation in our firearm and conceal carry classes. The most surprising thing about this trend is the number of firearms being purchased and the age group of women coming in,” Fettig observed. “Previously men would be the ones to make multiple firearm purchases while women would own a single firearm. I see more women frequenting the store looking to purchase another new firearm for either range use, home protection or self-defense. Women are moving away from the ‘one and done’ way of thinking.”