Capture Primary, Secondary Sales With Array Of Options.
Flashlight sales in the U.S. continue to grow and, thanks to excitement in the booming LED segment, show no signs of fading. If you haven’t positioned your store to take advantage of profits in this accessory sector of the firearms market, the time to do so is now.
Like most categories of the sporting and tactical markets, brick and mortar retailers face heavy competition from the Internet for flashlight sales. Wise retailers offset the advantages of internet purchasing by utilizing two tools at their disposal the internet just can’t offer: the hands-on shopping experience and customer service.
New for 2014, Cyclops added Duck Commander-branded products to its line of offerings.
The 9WS Max4 Cam Spotlight features 3-watt Cree Hi-Power LEDs for long-range illumination.
A little education goes a long way when making a flashlight sale. You and your sales force need to be up-to-speed on LEDs. The LED (light-emitting diode) bulb revolution in flashlight technology took root around four or five years ago, and in the few short years since has transformed the industry.
The advantage of these miniature powerhouses cannot be understated. LEDs rarely burn out because they emit virtually no heat, have a fraction of the drain on batteries compared to their counterparts and are more shockproof than their incandescent counterparts.
The potency of LED bulbs — used singularly or in clusters for greater output — is typically measured in “lumens”, which is a measurement of brightness (note: the candela unit of measurement is also used, but less frequently). The language and understanding of lumens is very important in flashlight sales, as it helps you determine your customer’s needs. In some cases, brighter isn’t always better, so it’s important to know about lumens and their measurement.
Evan Richardson, owner of The Gun Cellar in Moody, Ala., said, “Lumens are important to know because applications vary, so it’s essential to understand how to match the flashlight to your customer’s specific tasks.”
Many manufacturers have portions of their websites devoted to educational material. For instance, on Streamlight’s Learning Center link, you’ll find topics such as “Flashlight Applications And Beam Educational Write-ups” on subjects like “Advanced Illumination” and “How To Choose Weaponlights.” This material can bring you, your sales staff and buyers up to speed on the latest flashlight technology at no cost to you.
SureFire offers a range of options in its product line — from weapon-mounted
lights for handguns and long guns to handheld lights, wrist lights and headlamps.
Add Options To Meet Customers’ Needs
Flashlights perform a myriad of duties and most consumers need more than one. Whether your customer is an outdoorsman, L.E./tactical user or a member of the military there’s a good chance they use more than one flashlight — such as a large unit for general work or nighttime trailblazing and a small one for close-up work in tight spots. There are other functions flashlights perform directly connected to the use of firearms, which will be discussed later. Consider this basic multi-use principle when stocking your store.
Today’s customer is spoiled by finish choices and fortunately there are many to choose from in flashlights. For the hunter, there are flashlights in Mossy Oak, Realtree and other assorted looks. In popular military colors, you’ll find Olive Drab and Desert Tan. And for the tactical customer, basic silver and black fit the bill. This is great news for the retailer. You can literally tailor your stock to your customer base.
“Customers are unpredictable — besides having needs, there are aesthetics to consider. This is why it’s so important to stock a wide range of lights,” Richardson said.
The size range in handheld flashlights is nothing short of astounding — from stash-anywhere, small palm-sized models to heavy-duty monsters capable of serving as weapons. Because users typically buy more than one size of flashlight, vary your stock accordingly. The same goes for price range. Buyers are unpredictable in the value they hold for any given product, so it’s a good idea to cover all budgets.
Many flashlights can serve double-duty with firearm mounting. A wide variety of mounting systems are available — opening up an additional profit center for your store. The most common are mounts for rifles and shotguns, some which mount on barrels and others on the stock. There are also mounts for securing lights to Weaver and Picatinny rails. When you add these to your inventory, make sure you have compatible flashlights of the proper dimensions so you can offer the whole package. It doesn’t do any good to have mismatched lights and mounts in inventory.
Unlike long guns, modern polymer handguns tend to have dedicated flashlight systems made specifically for mounting to their frames. Most are now being designed with a rail on the underside of the barrel housing in front of the triggerguard.
“Typically these handguns have a Picatinny mount, which can accept a variety of manufacturers’ lighting systems. Streamlight and SureFire both make excellent lighting systems for this purpose,” Richardson said.
Many major manufacturers offer rechargeable flashlights with recharging systems,
which is well-suited for frequent users. The Fenix ARE-C2 Advanced Multi-Charger
is compatible with most Lithium-ion and Ni-MH rechargeable batteries.
Follow-Through On The Sale
A good stock of batteries is essential for any retailer selling flashlights. The most common are standard AAA, AA, C, D and the stubby CR123 3-volt batteries. The AA and AAA series batteries are readily found in rechargeable form (Energizer and Eneloop lead the field) and these are catching on among those who use their flashlights frequently. We’re also seeing an uptick in rechargeable 3-volt series batteries as they become more common.
Be wary of flashlights that require 18650 or 14500 (more common in Asia) rechargeable batteries, as these are hard to find and require dedicated charging systems. The first wave of LED flashlights from abroad required these batteries, but they’re becoming less common domestically as manufacturers adapt to common U.S. standards.
Major manufacturers such as Streamlight and Maglite offer rechargeable flashlights with their own charging systems. These are ideal for frequent users such as L.E. personnel. The bottom line is make sure you back your flashlight sales with the components to make them run.
While it’s a good idea to establish a central flashlight department in your store, don’t limit their exposure to just one location. Sprinkle a few around in your display cases to subtly advertise the fact you’re serious about your flashlight program. Take the time to mount flashlights on several firearms on display — handguns and long guns — to educate customers on how they can be adapted to their own guns, which can generate primary and secondary sales.
Flashlights make excellent promotional items for retailers due to their broad price point, which can range anywhere from $10 up to the hundreds. A flashlight can easily be given away with the purchase of a firearm. The “buy this gun, get this flashlight free” concept works well for tiered promotion also; the higher the price of the firearm the higher price of the flashlight giveaway. As always, coordinate your advertising and in-store promotion for maximum effectiveness.
Take the time to develop your line of flashlights. The closer you look, the easier it is to see how these often-overlooked staples can brighten your bottom line.
By Pat Covert
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