Women In The Great Outdoors — Oh My!

By C. Ainsley Beeman

Women hunters have grown exponentially over the past decade. Will your store be one they visit in 2018?
Dealers who educate, equip and empower women customers are more likely to foster long-term loyalty
and repeat business.

A quick social media search will reveal the great outdoors is no longer off limits to the ladies. The “men only” sign has long since been tossed into the campfire, smoldering next to the other one that read, “no girls allowed.” What may have originated as an effort for dads and grandfathers to spend quality time afield with their daughters has now evolved into the next generation of female outdoor enthusiasts — bringing wonder, grit and influence in the marketplace.

During my short tenure in the outdoor industry I’ve noted much transition not only in the game plan, but in the players afield as well. No longer do one or two prominent women dominate the media and influence the marketplace for their sponsors, now several female personalities reach a multitude of women and girls (i.e., potential customers).

Thanks to social media, all things outdoors are literally at our manicured (or not) fingertips. Women of various backgrounds are being introduced to the traditions of hunting and the shooting sports, which for years were deemed solely part of a man’s world. I’m here to tell you: that dog won’t hunt. Allow me to echo the words of a wise friend: “The amazement and passion we receive from the wild is for all who desire to choose to do so. Who are we to be the judge of who it is for? The outdoors is a gift to us, let’s always remember that.”

While women everywhere may be enticed and empowered to go afield they first need to be educated and equipped. Your marketing cry should be “Game on!” Retailers have an opportunity to shine by nurturing and further cultivating this positive trend. It would be beneficial for your business, along with the generations of hunters and fishers to come. So, what can you do?

1: Educate

When a novice visits your store, spend time getting to know who she is and where her interest lies. General conversation will often allow you to assess their knowledge and interject your experience as a trusted source relating to the chosen endeavor. Listening is an outstanding quality rarely exercised — yet produces a great gain for both parties, especially in retail!

As someone who owns a marketing firm and studies the hashtag (#), mentions (@) and social contest world more than most, I’d also strongly encourage you to educate yourself in the world of social media. If you don’t have time or feel as though you may lack the social savvy, allocate marketing dollars to hire a specialist. Retailers can afford social media assistance from a third party, but you can’t afford to be inept in this field during a marketing bonanza. Recognize social media as the marketing plan you’ve always dreamed of!

2: Equip

Knowledge is power, but you’ve got to have the correct tools to capitalize. Much like shooting a rifle, identify your target, zero-in and squeeze the trigger. Understand your market, hone your purchases at buying shows toward that specific market and make a good presentation in your store.

While we all agree no two women are the same, this should not be a guessing game. Don’t underestimate the insight gained from your customer base. Inquire of them and listen to likes or dislikes, as well as what they have seen on social media or in other stores. Once this is established, purchase accordingly.

Bill Petrus of T.P. Outdoors in Monroe, La., recently shared with me an observation he made during a recent elk hunting venture with a friend and their spouses. After making a 1.5-mile hike gaining elevation every step, Bill stated, “Women are capable of hunting just like men. As a fellow sporting goods dealer, it would be foolish for any retailer to overlook women when planning your product mix. Females represent a real growth potential in the outdoor industry.”

Seth Dortch of Final Flight Outfitters in Union City, Tenn., continues with this mindset noting, “Final Flight Outfitters has made it a point to heed the call of taking part in the action of security and acceptance for the woman who seeks outdoor pursuits, and the community that results from it. We’ve made it a priority to carry product and gear that aids the woman in comfort and reliability.”

While many newcomers may have had a mentor in the outdoor world, there are those who have not. Once again, as a retailer, your staff can answer the call and ensure a repeat customer by offering insight and properly equipping a novice who just may return with a friend. More than likely, they’re purchasing equipment that will in some way be tied to a memory — so do everything you can to ensure it’s a positive one.

3: Empower

Before, during and after the sale, instill confidence. Confidence is key in so many areas of life, and this is especially true when it comes to exposure to the great outdoors. Regardless of venue, familiarity is your best friend. The more time dedicated to any pursuit, the more comfortable one becomes. The more comfortable you become, the more confident you are to operate competently. As the retailer, be the voice of encouragement; after all, you’re promoting your industry and what it represents.

So many actions I’ve taken in my life are the result of initial encouragement. I can attest there was nothing more empowering than my dad instilling me with confidence in my ability as an outdoorsperson. Whether it’s a seasoned vet or a novice outdoorswoman gracing your storefront, let me encourage you to speak life to that woman’s ambitions: It will carry her far into the field, across the water and back through your front door time and again.

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