It’s parents’ weekend at the local university, and a group of 20 sorority girls, with their fathers, have arrived for an impromptu daughter/daddy day at the range. As a tide of people dressed in maroon and cowboy boots floods the sales floor and range, the store’s staff scrambles to equip everyone with guns, gear and lanes. Through the use of a friendly “divide and conquer” strategy, all of the dads and daughters get a chance to shoot and experience the range.
This was just one of the many busy days Champion Firearms experienced at their gun store located near a major university in College Station, Texas. Owners Mike and Katie Stulce, a husband and wife team, have seen their business grow from a small gun store, to a thriving retail operation and gun range over the past 20 years.
Katie Stulce has witnessed the women’s market grow over the past two decades, and now estimates about 15 to 20 percent of her customers are women. She attributes the increase to families trying to find more things to do together, with a mix of personal-defense and recreational shooters interested in the shooting sports.
Champion Firearms is located near Texas A&M, which impacts the products the store carries. Over time, Stulce has noticed definite surges in requests for firearms, training and non-lethal personal-defense options at certain times of the year.
“There’s a dramatic turnover at the beginning and end of each semester,” she said. “Parents are sending their daughters off on their own for the first time and they want them to be protected.”
She noted parents buy non-lethal items for their daughters living on campus, while they tend to buy firearm training and firearms for those living off campus.
The battery powered 800,000-volt Zap Stick has two LED lights and a pink non-slip grip.
Provide Non-Lethal Options
Pepper spray remains one of the most popular, non-lethal personal-defense options. Mace offers several varieties of pepper spray that are popular with consumers including: the Hot Pink Pepper Spray Pocket Model, the Purse Model (which resembles lipstick) and the Mace Pepper Spray Defense Baton. Stulce said small, keychain-type pepper sprays sell well in her store.
Security Equipment Corp. is marketing one of its Sabre pepper gels as Campus Safety Pepper Gel. It sports a durable plastic hard case, and the gel formula is safe to use indoors because there is reduced blowback; it also comes in both black and pink.
Another Sabre-brand product for college students is the SmartGuard iPhone case, which holds a built-in Sabre Red Pepper Spray Baton. The cases come in white, black and pink. Color coordinating refills are available for purchase.
Stulce said another popular personal-defense item is the Zap Stick from Personal Security products. This battery-operated, 800,000-volt stun gun is equipped with two ultra-bright LED lights. It is available in a black or pink soft rubber coating, with a non-slip grip.
Yellow Jacket, a new personal-defense company, recently introduced an iPhone case with a 650,000-volt stun gun. The Yellow Jacket external battery will even charge the iPhone to one full battery charge. Choices of colors include gold, white, black and pink.
“One of the things to keep in mind when selling to women is they want options when in comes to color,” Stulce said. Colored guns and accessories appeal to women, because it marks the product as belonging to them, and tends to discourage others from using their belongings.
She also noted brightly colored items, such as hot pink pepper spray, are much easier to find in a purse — so color can have a practical purpose as well.
Service & Education
Providing excellent customer service and making women feel comfortable in their store has been a big priority for the owners of Champion Firearms.
“Our Handgun 101 class has been a good tool for us,” Stulce said. “After the class, women feel more comfortable and we can help them find their gun. We can also teach them how to safely use a gun they already have.”
The classes also make the cash register ring.
“We have about 10 to 15 women per week in our classes,” Stulce said. “About 30 to 40 percent of the women who attend classes end up buying a gun from us.”
Midsize semi-autos, like the Glock 19 in 9mm, are the most popular guns purchased. Smith & Wesson J-frames are a close second. Stulce said she makes an effort to carry quality purse holsters from Galco and Gun Tote’n Mamas, because it’s basically a requirement if you want to have satisfied female customers.
Champion Firearms has successfully built a reputation in their community as a high-quality establishment. Being close to a large university impacts the rhythm of the store’s sales, and the type of products sold. A range helps bring in new shooters and the safety classes help turn the students into safe gun owners. Focusing on this college-age demographic can give gun storeowners many new opportunities to educate young people about firearms, and provide valuable tips on personal safety.
Everyday, parents are sending children off to live on their own. Your store can be their personal-defense headquarters, if you stock a wide array of non-lethal defense options as well as firearms. Direct some of your advertising at campus personal-defense, so parents and students know they have options. Soon enough, some new faces might walk through the doors of your establishment.
By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
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