Improve Sales Beyond The Gun
By Carolee Anita Boyles
Mention self-defense products, and most retailers think immediately about handguns and shotguns. But there’s a whole category of products “beyond the gun” that can mean significant sales for retailers who stock them.
Whether you carry just the basics or go for new and innovative products with a unique twist on personal safety, the opportunity is there to expand sales for both new and experienced customers.
Alex Shkop owns Guns and Range Training Center in West Palm Beach, Fla. He stocks a variety of pepper sprays and Tasers in his store.
“When you’re talking about chemical agents like pepper spray and Mace, you have spray and gel options,” he said. “And some are more potent than others.”
The customer who purchases pepper spray or a Taser generally isn’t the same person who comes in and purchases a firearm for self-protection, Shkop added.
“There’s a little bit of overlap,” he noted. “But generally it’s a different group of customers. There are some people who carry both (firearms and pepper spray), but it’s not a big group. Probably 80 percent of firearms enthusiasts rely solely on their firearm.”
There are those who carry pepper spray that aren’t interested in firearms, Shkop relayed.
“There’s a whole group who doesn’t want anything to do with a gun,” he said. “They’re looking for a non-lethal alternative.”
At Gun and Range Training Center, customers in this category generally are about 75 percent women and 25 percent men.
“Most of them are non-shooters,” Shkop noted. “Their ages are across the board. Then you also have a group made up of parents buying pepper spray for their college-age daughters.”
When it comes to Tasers, technology hasn’t changed much over the past few years, according to Shkop.
“There is expanded availability for civilians,” he noted. “And the size of Tasers has changed; they’ve become smaller.”
Shkop said the cost of a good Taser is around $300 and up. “Some of them cost almost as much as a gun,” he added.
Cutting Edge Streetwise Pepper Spray
Store Opens With Defense In Mind
At the other end of the inventory spectrum is the Self Defense Superstore, which stocks everything from personal alarms to stun guns, including pepper spray and Tasers. Owner Nigel Rogers not only sells to individual consumers online, he also supplies these products to brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. Recently, he made the decision to add a retail store to his sales channels; the store will open in Eustis, Fla., in early 2017.
Rogers said most sales of these “beyond the gun” products are online sales.
“It seems to me sporting goods stores aren’t really interested [in these products],” he said. Rogers asserted about 70 percent of the online sales he makes are in the “beyond the gun” category.
The reason Rogers decided to open the storefront was to provide a forum for education.
“People just don’t know the breadth and depth of products available,” he said. “The only way that’s going to be achieved is in a storefront.”
To help educate retail customers, Rogers said he’s adding a self-defense training area.
“We’ll demonstrate how to use the products,” he said. “We’ve teamed up with a local police officer who is prepared to come in and help. We’re firearm advocates, but we also want to provide folks with an alternative. A stun gun, Taser, or baton — or many of the other products we carry — will show the intent is to defend yourself without going to the conclusion of a lethal option.”
Rogers said he carries many alternative products for customers who don’t want the responsibility that comes with carrying a concealed firearm.
“We have flashlights with stun guns built into them,” he said. “We have them made under our own brand, and we have our own Heatwave pepper spray and a brand of date rape drink tester cards manufactured for us. It’s the size of a credit card: A woman can touch her drink and put the drop on the card and it tells her if there’s Rohypnol or another date rape drug in the drink. It works in about 10 seconds.”
SABRE Door Handle Alarm
Wild Cat Keychain
In Shkop’s market, customers are much more likely to purchase firearms than they are to purchase Tasers or pepper spray.
“Sales of pepper spray and Tasers are about the same as they’ve been for several years,” he said. “But I also think the ‘overlap’ group will grow. I think some of the women who have been carrying pepper spray are becoming shooters. Firearms are becoming more mainstream. We as retailers have added female staff and female instructors — we’re trying to help that trend. The number of people who carry both will grow, and it’s mostly driven by women.”
The rise in non-lethal options won’t reduce the number of people who want to legally carry firearms, Shkop predicts.
“Most likely, people who carry will always carry,” he said. “And the people who carry both will stay about the same. Shooters will remain a separate category, and there will always be just a little bit of overlap.”
Rogers hasn’t noted any particular trends in the sale of “beyond the gun” options in the past few years.
“People seem to think of pepper spray, Tasers and knives, but they’re just catching on to the other options,” he said. “They’re starting to realize there are some clever devices out there for protecting yourself and your home. The one trend we’ve seen is there has been an uptick in the past year in sales overall. Whether it was driven by the election or by general unease, I don’t know, but more and more people seem to be buying.”
For instance, Rogers said, he stocks a pepper spray alarm for home defense that also has storefront applications.
“It activates when an intruder comes in,” he said. “Criminals know they’ve got three to five minutes before the police arrive. The alarm activates and shoots four ounces of pepper spray at the intruder within three seconds of the break-in, so it drives thieves out before they can get into your home or store and take an expensive item and run away in a minute.”
When a gun shop owner comes to Rogers and asks to become a part of his retail network, Rogers tells him to put the hot sellers in his store first.
“The intruder pepper alarm is the biggest seller,” he said. “Strangely enough, another one is the Wildcat, which is like a knuckle duster for women. They’re beneficial items to have on the sales floor.”
(To see the range of these products, visit the Self Defense Superstore website at www.selfdefensesuperstore.com.)
The bottom line is by adding these products to your store you’re reaching a different demographic than the customers you already have. You not only have a new audience, you may be able to create new, lifelong shooters as well. It’s a win-win situation all the way around.
Here’s a list of some non-lethal alternatives available for personal and home safety that may appeal to new customers. Is there anything you’d add to this list? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Child Identification Key Chains
Door & Doorstop Alarms
Electronic Animal Repellent
Flashlight Stun Guns
Pepper Spray (Personal, Keychain, Jogger, Etc.) Kubotans
Pepper Spray Alarm Systems
Window Alert Sensors