Beyond Top-Selling Handguns
Sales Are Riding High. But Are Dealers Overlooking Equally Worthy Options?
Handguns are hot. No news there. Some pistols are so popular that many manufacturers are having difficulty keeping up with the demand.
“Some manufacturers are at least three months behind on their production,” said Joe Ferrero, gun buyer at Gun World in Burbank, Calif. “It’s difficult to keep product in stock because manufacturers can’t make guns fast enough.”
What are the most popular selling models? Rick Kenny, sales manager at Kastle Keep in Largo, Fla., says Glock always sells well for him.
“It’s not any particular model. It’s across the board. Glock pistols are very hot. The Smith & Wesson M&P also is a real hot item right now. Everybody has a caliber they like, but the most popular seem to be 9mm and .40,” Kenny said.
Yes, handgun sales are hot, but are some sales being overlooked? Kenny thinks so. He says customers and retailers become so focused on the most popular firearms, they sometimes forget about other, equally worthy, handguns. The key to selling handguns properly, Kenny says, is to present your customers with as many options as possible, and to help them decide which option is best to meet their needs.
“I don’t think dealers do a good job of that,” Kenny said.
He says customers often tell him that another gun dealer told them to buy a specific model of handgun, and that “everything else is junk.” This annoys Kenny, who says retailers need to look beyond their own favorites to help the customer find the right firearm.
“All the Ruger pistols are overlooked more than any other brand, but they’re also one of the most reliable handguns made,” he said. “People also tend to overlook Kel Tec. Colt is a fine gun that is often overshadowed, and Springfield is another manufacturer that gets overlooked.”
Kenny said there are several specific models he’d very much like to get in stock so he can show them to his customers.
“The Ruger SR1911 has been out for almost eight months and we have yet to see one,” he said. “We also aren’t able to get the Kel Tec PMR-30, which is a hot seller.”
Glock continues to be a best seller in virtually every region of the country.
This G21 sports Crimson Trace’s Rail Master Universal Laser Sight.
Missed Add-On Sales
Not only do dealers overlook certain handguns, Kenny says they also either forget or get too busy to encourage customers to purchase accessories.
“Sometimes, when we get really busy and we’re trying to get to the next customer so we don’t ignore anyone, we forget to remind customers about accessories,” he said. “When we do have time, we let the customer know what accessories are available for the gun they just purchased. Fortunately, we have really good customers who jump in and help other customers if they can. That’s nice because customers like hearing something positive from someone other than the sales staff.”
The one accessory that is selling very well these days, Kenny said, is laser sights from Viridian.
“I think it’s because they’re green and they have good visibility,” he said. “It’s the new high-tech thing.”
At the distributor level, Laurie Aronson, president and CEO of Lipsey’s, says the Glock G17 and G19, and Ruger LCP are the best-selling brands of handguns, in .380, 9mm and .40.
“Ruger has done a tremendous job of executing their new launches with guns ready at the time of launch, plus they continue to innovate with new products,” she said.
Aronson said retailers and their customers tend to overlook larger-frame revolvers across all manufacturers.
“These days, most consumers are looking for higher-capacity pistols or small-frame guns for concealed carry,” she said.
Ruger’s SR1911 is such a hot seller that many dealers still can’t get them in stock.
Introduce Other Options
At GAT Guns in East Dundee, Ill., Greg Tropino, Jr. says many new shooters are influenced by brand recognition.
“They hear about cops carrying Glocks, or they’ve heard about the Springfield XD,” he said. “They come in and ask for the big-brand names.”
Tropino said novice buyers often aren’t willing to look at options; they have an image based on brand name, and overlook firearms that might be more suited to their needs and experience.
“Often they don’t know the differences between guns,” he said.
Tropino says it’s important for retailers to introduce other options, and explain why those options might be useful to the particular customer.
“You also need to have a variety of handguns in stock so customers have options,” Tropino said. “You need to motivate your staff so they show the customer what options are available, instead of allowing the customer to make assumptions about what he wants.”
Tropino said retailers often overlook firearms from CZ-USA.
“That’s a very underrated company that makes exceptional guns,” he said. “They’re one of the few companies who makes everything in house and doesn’t outsource parts.”
At GAT Guns, the Smith & Wesson M&P gets overlooked, Tropino said.
“Few new shooters are aware of it,” he said. “It doesn’t have as much product awareness as Glock and Springfield.”
Experienced shooters are aware of their options before they walk in the door, Tropino said.
“They do a lot more research, so when they do come in, they know what guns and what models they want to see. They do their own comparisons,” he said.
Tropino said getting these customers to consider another manufacturer or model is difficult, particularly if it’s a gun the retailer doesn’t have in stock.
Tropino also said salespeople often get so busy they don’t encourage customers to purchase accessories.
“It’s hard to take an hour with one customer, even if you’re selling high-margin accessories, because you know you’re leaving other people unattended,” he said. “And because employees don’t have to do much to sell handguns, they develop bad habits and sometimes just hand customers what they ask for.”
Tropino says this contributes to customers missing out on lesser-known but quality firearms, and retailers missing out on potential sales of these guns.
“If you don’t encourage or incentivize your staff — or at least remind them to push both these guns and accessories — they often don’t make the extra effort,” Tropino said.
The Springfield XD series, including the XD-S, is a best seller in many markets, but
is passed over by some dealers and consumers, according to Rick Kenny of Kastle Keep.
The entire gun-buying dynamic is different in California.
“We really haven’t seen the increase in handgun sales as much as other states have,” said Joe Ferrero, gun buyer at Gun World in Burbank, Calif. “Here, the increase is minor at best; it’s only about 10 to 20 percent.”
Ferrero said he thinks California customers are accustomed to the kind of regulations the rest of the country fears.
“We already have so many regulations in place that I don’t think people here are as afraid of gun legislation passing as everyone else is,” he said.
For the most part, Ferrero said, sales have been fairly normal.
“We had a little increase at the beginning of the year, but our summer months have been spotty, which is typical for us,” he said. “Our best sellers are Glock, SIG SAUER and Smith & Wesson. In Glock and SIG, customers are buying 9mm and .40. In Smith & Wesson, it’s 9mm and revolvers in .357 and .38. In Kimber and Springfield, .45s are very popular.”
In his situation, Ferrero said, he and his staff are able to keep up with the add-on sales of accessories such as grips, cleaning supplies, holsters and other products.
“That’s where we make our money,” he said. “If you don’t up-sell people with accessories, you won’t stay in business very long.”
By Carolee Anita Boyles
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