Optimism has engulfed the industry as it heads into the new business year. The biggest challenge may be in finding a company official who isn’t optimistic about business in 2012.
When asked about the prospects for next year, given the weak economy and national elections, the occasional cautious comment from company officials is usually followed by projection for continued good, if not robust, sales. (See “New Business Year,” page 38.)
Personal-defense products continue to top sales in the industry, and that trend will continue into 2012. Why does the industry generally do well when the economy is bad?
“I think it’s the uncertainty. That’s the single biggest thing. People don’t know who is going to get elected, they’re concerned about future legislation, and I think there’s an attitude of, ‘Let me buy it while I can,’” said Brian Herrick, Savage Arms vice president of marketing and sales. “That’s why you generally see it affecting (positively) ammunition, handguns, self-defense rifles or security shotguns. When it comes to our type of goods, which is traditional long guns, these conditions generally have a negative impact.”
But, Herrick says, Savage has defied the trend.
“Things have been off the charts for us. We just finished up a record-setting year and it was across the board. It was centerfire and rimfire; they all performed exceptionally well. Very honestly, it’s not that the category is growing — we’re simply taking market share,” Herrick said.
Savage’s impressive performance in the market is driven by changes the company made to its product line, Herrick says.
“Certainly, last year when we introduced the Axis rifle, that has been a primary driver for us, producing huge volumes,” Herrick said. “I think more dealers are handling the Axis, they’re happy with what they see and they’re bringing in more Savage guns.”
Herrick reports that Savage, as of early November, sold 170,000 rimfire rifles in 2011.
“That’s a significant number and it’s a good part of our business. Certainly putting the AccuTrigger into the bolt-action rimfires a number of years gave it a big boost. Today, we’re the largest rimfire producer in the world,” Herrick said.
Savage will introduce four “volume drivers” for 2012, Herrick reports.
“We’re bringing out a left-handed Axis rifle — no one else has an entry-level price-point, left-handed gun,” Herrick said. “Another real volume driver is a scaled-down rimfire, bolt-action single-shot called the Rascal. We’ve also teamed up with Nikon and have three package guns, with 3-9×40 scopes with BDC reticles. The fourth volume driver is a pump gun from China. Last year, we brought in a model that was a bit heavy. This version has an alloy frame that is going to be very competitively priced.”
Herrick says the nation’s poor economy will not challenge the industry.
“If the economy was going to impact the industry, it would have done that already. While it’s going to go up and down and have gyrations, I think it’s going to have an overall trend upward. All in all, we’re looking for a great year,” Herrick said.
In the January issue, dealers will share their views on 2012, along with their recommendations for success in the new business year.
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