By Lisa Parsons-Wraith
Good old-fashioned customer service seems to be a buzzword for women. When women walk into a gun store, they want to be acknowledged and courteously assisted with finding the best firearm or accessory to fit their needs. Sounds simple, and huge strides have been made in recent years to dispel the image of gun stores being a place for “good ol’ boys” only. Competition for discretionary dollars is fierce, however, and luring customers away from online shopping is a daily challenge, but many dealers are finding success by offering unbeatable customer service and training.
Sandy Barnett, owner of Ballistic Therapy Indoor Shooting Range & Gun Shop in Boerne, Texas, said she has a passion for helping women be safe. From the start, she wanted her business to have a warm, welcoming atmosphere where women could learn about firearms safely. Even the name of her business was conceived with women in mind, she noted, saying women tend to do a lot of “retail therapy.” Her store, Ballistic Therapy, focuses on making sure women were comfortable and owned firearms to fit their needs. “Buying a gun is like buying shoes or a purse, you have to find something that fits,” she added.
Barnett said she has made it her mission to be the friendliest gun shop in Texas, “We’re always willing to help and we go above and beyond to provide great customer service.”
Firearms training classes is one of the biggest draws for women. Ballistic Therapy offers a “Handgun 101” and “License to Carry” class. Barnett said she’s looking to offer tactical training classes next, as women have requested to take the next step in their training. Safety is the order of the day at Ballistic Therapy, “We’re very safety conscious,” she noted. “People say, ‘I’m coming back because I like the way you guys keep the range safe.’”
Barnett said it’s also important to have females on staff. She serves as a “License to Carry” instructor and she employs a female manager. “Our approach is to have females fit females — we feel we’re unique,” she said. Ballistic Therapy uses their wide range of rental guns to give women a chance to test out the fit and feel of a firearm before they buy.
Welcoming women’s shooting groups has also helped Ballistic Therapy build its female customer base. They support A Girl & A Gun Shooting League, The Well Armed Woman and a private women’s shooting group. After the events, range officers are available to help women break down and clean their firearms free of charge. “Ladies really like this, it’s a chance for them to get to know their gun through and through, and get comfortable and train with it,” Barnett observed. Sales of cleaning supplies also go up after one of these sessions, she added.
Sandy Barnett says her store’s emphasis on safety, quality customer
service and support for women’s shooting groups — as you can see in
this advertisement — have all contributed to her recent success in
attracting women to the shooting sports.
Retail Therapy At Work
When it comes to selling women firearms and accessories, Barnett stressed there is no perfect “one size fits all” gun or holster. Ballistic Therapy has a small boutique area for ladies T-shirts, hats and accessories. She said most women go through a process of trial and error when buying a holster, “The biggest challenge for women is holsters,” Barnett said, “I’ve tried a lot and I haven’t been impressed with the current holster offerings. I’m still looking for the perfect holster.”
Generally, IWB holsters work well, and women who wear skirts like the elastic band garter holsters, Barnett said. Material preferences vary, but many women find leather and Kydex sweaty, so they prefer a neoprene holster.
One of the products Ballistic Therapy can’t keep in stock is the UpLULA speed loader from Maglula. “The age range of most of the women I train is from 30 to 60 years old,” Barnett said. “Their dilemma is arthritis in their hands or weak hands, and they can’t load the magazine. The best training aid for ladies is the UpLULA.” The UpLULA is popular because ammunition can just be dropped in the device without any pushing or pulling, and there’s no hand fatigue. It’s also durable, lightweight and fits easily into a pocket.
Women weren’t too keen on the pink UpLULA, Barnett said, but Maglula recently released the UpLULA in four new colors: green, orange, lemon and purple — so there are some alternative colors to appeal to women who aren’t fans of pink.
Barnett also can’t keep the SIG P238 in stock because it’s so popular with women, “Ladies can rack the slide easily and it fits well in their hand. One rack and they have seven rounds ready to go.” The GLOCK 42 is the store’s second best seller.
Another secret weapon at Ballistic Therapy is FrogLube, a bio-based, non-toxic, non-flammable, non-petroleum, cleaner, lubricant and preservative that is water insoluble. “FrogLube makes it slide like butter,” Barnett said. “It costs a little bit but it works.”
UpLULA Universal pistol loader
Ballistic Therapy has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, but they advertise locally on billboards and trailers that move around the city. Barnett said they also sell a lot of T-shirts with their logo and with “Ballistic Angels” on them, and this also helps spread the word about the business.
Ballistic Therapy’s business plan is working, as it has only been open for about a year and Barnett is already building her second location. The new location will have an indoor/outdoor range, so she can increase her tactical training offerings. Other features Barnett is considering are an archery range and firearm simulator. The simulator will be a valuable asset for ladies who aren’t ready for live-fire training, she noted.
Women shooters and women gun storeowners are changing the way gun dealers do business. Women tend to be the decision makers when it comes to household discretionary income and they’re using their buying power to make their preferences known. A combination of outstanding customer service, quality training and a focus on safety are a winning formula to attract and keep women customers.