Not mine, but the author hit the most important aspects.
I think it is important to know what demographic the store is targeting. A small niche store will be different that a big community store. In my biz, getting to know my community and what they wanted had a dramatic effect on what we offered. I am not an avid shooter or collector, but I carry daily and practice 2-4 times per month. Here is what I look for:
1.) Prices not more than 15% over what I can find on the net. I will pay more to buy brick and mortar, but not much more. The better the staff is and the more the store stands behind their products the more I will be willing to pay over that price. Better yet, I would love to see a store with a solid web presence, with online inventory (with prices!), and easy custom ordering services.
2.) Have ammo for the F’n $800 pistol I just bought. I good store will anticipate shortages and runs on ammo, have a solid buffer supply in storage, and limit sales when the gun nutters want to buy out the damn store and reasonable folk are left with empty guns.
3.) Staff that values my patronage and my time. I’ll take a number at the DMV…no where else. Managers need to learn to staff for the ebb and flow of the workday and holidays…and elections. If you have 20 people waiting to buy guns, you can afford to pay some more help. Everyone at the gun counter doesn’t need to be an expert (though you need a few), just like everyone at my clinic doesn’t need to be a doctor. Triage, delegate, get ‘er done.
4.) Selection: have one or two premium items, and a TON of the popular stuff, in every option, with all available accessories. I would have been an easy upsell for a holster, laser, light, etc on my last gun purchase, the problem was they didn’t HAVE ANY OF IT! Selling accessories and such is a huge profit margin booster and a convenience for the buyer.
5.) Range! I’ll buy it if I can shoot it. My gun place has a range and they rent most the pistols they carry for cheap ($10) to try out at the range. I buy where I practice, makes it easy.
6.) Education: I don’t need to learn urban combat, LE tactics, or other Dynamic Pie concepts. I want to see a ton of safety classes FREE for the community. Some premium marksmanship classes, and maybe a few selections for the pros out there. Everything super low key and NO tacticool garbage like that Krav Maga stuff you were mocking earlier…those look like accidents waiting to happen. I see a group of guys in matching t-shirts enter the range and I freakin leave ASAP. Classes for kids need to be for kids…no Uzi’s…how about a single shot .22 bolt savage.
Now make it happen.
I can’t disagree with the author.
4 thoughts on “A Rant about Gun Stores.”
While I agree with his points, I will say this: there’s an awful lot of people who know exactly a business they have never run ought to run. I would love to see all of these things at my local stores, too, but I don’t. Why? I donno. I’ve never run a gun shop before. Maybe this dude ought to get a loan and open his own store. He might find all the things he thinks he needs aren’t compatible with keeping the doors open.
I agree in theory with the points made. I managed a small gun store that specialized in tactical / self defense firearms. We had optics, holo sights, magazines, holsters, ammo, ammo, ammo! But what the author does not grasp is that in just one category of accessories there may literally be thousands of items. It’s just not possible to stock that type of inventory. It’s easy to put yourself behind the eightball by trying to be all things to all people even in a niche store. When you as a customer are looking through all of that “gee-whiz” inventory, the owner is actually seeing his money hanging on hooks and sitting on shelves. If that inventory doesn’t sell, you can find yourself out of business pretty fast. The other phenomenon is all of those super duper accessories and not a few of those high priced guns have a “cool factor” shelf life. When the next gun magazine hits the shelves with the next the latest cool super ambi can’t miss wonder blaster, you’re stuck with a whole lot of yesterday’s news. So, at least in the smaller shops what you’ll usually find is what actually sells in that stores area. While we would like to be able to satisfy everyone’s wish list it’s not always possible. One other thing, every sale is important to the small shop. You can’t believe how many times you hear, “that’s exactly what I was looking for, I’ll be back after I check with the boss!” (meaning Wife). After you’ve spent the better part of an hour explaining the firearm, teaching the breakdown and explaining the various accessories. In some cases this phenom also explains the service you get as a potential customer, while someone who actually has purchased gets better treatment and attention. It’s not the way it should be, but it is the reality of the situation. You almost learn a type of “triage” as in how to separate the browsers, “museum shoppers” (i.e.” you had it a year ago, and now it’s gone!”) and actual potential buyers. In the gun business all you can do is try! ( oh, the markup isn’t that good, so trying to pay a full time staff….don’t get me started!)
I agree with the article and to a lesser degree with Bob’s comment.
Having worked in retail for a lot of years (more than 30) the article is spot on. You have to know your customer, or your potential customer and tailor your business to them specifically.
If you are selling an item that requires batteries and don’t have any batteries you are a fool and should close your doors (and most likely will). Now that said Bob is partly correct, you can’t carry every battery model, but you need to carry atleast one. most follow the guood, better, best model you carry three of an accessory for each item. the item should be good better best as well, higher end either good better with best ordered, or good best. again fine tuning and tailoring to match customers.
Also, you can’t make payroll on one sale, stop pricing hundreds more than online prices or pricing at full MSRP Retail. Good customers aren’t stupid, if they know the pricing, they won’t shop with you, if they didn’t know the pricing they will figure it out after the sale and they won’t come back. either way you won’t have repeats.
as for the latest wiz bang item, you need to buy them, then mark them down when they don’t sell out before the next one comes out. part of retail, deal with it.
There have been very few gun stores recently I have gone into that have really impressed me. More and more they seem to fall into two categories: hunting shacks and tactical mall ninja. Either the place is decorated with taxidermy and trophies and stocks a limited supply of mostly deer rifles and .22s or it looks like a SWAT team armory loaded with Glock posters and black guns while the employees walk around looking like models out of the Blackhawk apparel catalog. Neither store really fits my personality.
What I really like is to go to Cabela’s or a select few gun stores I am familiar with and look at the used items. For the most part, I’ve given up on buying new guns. There are some good deals online, but once you are done paying for shipping and an FFL transfer you can tack on $75-$100 to the price listed on Gunbroker or Armslist.
What I have considered doing is opening up a gun store that deals mostly in used items. estate sales, FFL transfers, consignment, and pawn on guns only. In Illinois, all sales have to go though a background check. Acting as a consignment shop would allow individuals to sell their guns with less hassle as the shop would handle the background check as part of the consignment fee.
I have noticed that in IL, most gun stores have very small used sections. I know on popular new items, I could not beat the prices of retailers like Cablea’s or Bass Pro. But handing used and online sales as a niche business in the Chicagoland area, I think would work out quite nicely.
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