By Massad Ayoob
Women’s interest has been vital to recent pro-gun victories, and helpful to increasing gun sales. If you haven’t adjusted your product mix or approach to selling defensive products to women, now would be a smart time to start. Interest in personal defense has grown increasingly among women — and their earnest testimony in State Houses around the country has done much to spread the shall-issue concealed carry concept. They have also, obviously, increased the sales of firearms bought for purposes of personal and family protection.
In SI, you’ll find many articles on the subtleties of selling to female customers. Here, we add to the collection with perspectives from two dealers on opposite coasts who sell heavily to female clientele.
SIG SAUER 938
East Coast: Harry Beckwith’s Gun Shop
The Pickett family owns three gun shops in north central Florida: Pickett Weaponry in Newberry and Lake City, and the iconic Harry Beckwith’s in Micanopy, which they bought from the owner in 2006 shortly before his passing. Jack Pickett and his wife Michelle run the latter.
“Percentage of sales to women is close to 30 percent,” Jack relayed. “Michelle really built that business up. We do far more business with women in Micanopy than we do in Lake City or Newberry. A lot of it is simply having a knowledgeable female salesperson on staff.”
Michelle recommends getting involved with such groups as the Well Armed Woman and A Girl and A Gun. “Women’s gun groups definitely get women in the door, but by themselves they’re not the reason our business is going up,” Jack said. “The Well Armed Women group will have 15–20 women show up here for a meeting from a group over 100 strong, but only six or seven walk next door to our range and shoot. I think Michelle’s involvement in the gun groups and walking them through it is what counts.
“We also found women aren’t hesitant to spend money for quality and value. The only hindrance I find selling a high-dollar gun to a lady is if her husband is with her,” he added with a chuckle.
What are the best selling products for women at the store?
“The SIG 938 9mm and 238 .380 move very well with the ladies. Michelle points out their advantages to the customers: flat, light, easy to carry, very controllable and ‘shootable.’ If they’re comfortable carrying cocked and locked it’s one of the best systems you can get. Those are our two largest sellers to the women,” Jack relayed. “The .380 GLOCK 42 is the next best seller and just below, the S&W Shield 9mm. The Ruger LCP and Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380s, being double action only, don’t sell well to ladies after they’ve shot the rental specimens on our range.”
As to home-defense long guns, the Pickett’s report they’re selling a lot more MSR-style rifles to female shooters these days. Short-barrel shotguns remain surprisingly popular among the female clientele at Beckwith’s, too.
“More women buy 12-gauge than 20,” Michelle Pickett told SI. Jack added, “The big reason for this, I think, is we teach point shooting from the hip for close-range home-defense, and with the gun off the shoulder, recoil is less of a concern.”
Their single best-selling home defense shotgun for women is Mossberg’s economy-grade Maverick 88. “It’s the price point,” Jack mused.
Concealed carry is widespread in Florida, and Michelle sells a lot of the Can Can Concealment holsters. A huge seller for the Pickett shops among both genders is the Bullseye holster series. Jack told us, “Bullseye is a local company in Jacksonville making both IWB and OWB models in Kydex. The company sells us the blanks, and trained us to mold the holsters here. We tell our customers, ‘Whatever you have on we’ll make a holster to fit your gun.’ Everyone loves it.”
Women purchase firearms for more than just self defense. Here, Michelle Pickett
sells a high-quality hunting rifle to one of her many female customers.
West Coast: Ukiah Gun Shop
Last year, I visited Sonia Lau, vice president of Ukiah Gun Shop in Ukiah, Calif., which had recently opened in May. From the beginning, the store placed a strong emphasis on female clientele.
“We have a huge number of female CCWs here in Mendocino County, and they needed a place to put their guns,” she said. “We established a relationship with a women’s group affiliated with the Ukiah Gun Club. Lots of women do cowboy action and trap shooting here. We offer basic training for first-time purchasers. Our female clientele is now about 30 percent, and has grown since we opened.”
Sonia reported her strong sellers: “We have four really popular handguns among women: the S&W Shield, the BERSA Firestorm .380, the SIG P238 .380 and the Ruger LCR .38 Special revolver. The Shield is the single most popular, in 9mm.”
She added, “We sell a lot of long guns to female clientele — mostly shotguns, 20-gauge pumps. The light recoil sells the 20-gauge, often with youth stocks. Mossberg and Remington are the most popular. MSRs were really popular among our female clientele and were building a lot of momentum before they were banned at the end of 2016 here in California.”
For carry gear, “corset holsters” from Femme Fatale are the best seller to female customers. Designed for women, they hide subcompact handguns well on a variety of shapes under an equally wide variety of ladies’ fashions.
During my visit, Ukiah Gun Shop was heavily promoting a CCW class taught through the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department. “We have a good relationship with the Sheriff’s Department,” Sonia said. “Our Sheriff is pro-Second Amendment and has promised to continue to issue CCWs as long as he can. It’s pretty much ‘shall-issue’ here.”
Even in a still-male-dominated business, Ukiah Gun Shop and Harry Beckwith’s Gun Shop have flourished after earning a 30 percent female customer base. There were some common approaches in the way they conduct their business:
Gun-savvy women behind the counter, like Michelle Pickett and Sonia Lau, with whom female customers can relate and identify.
Staff who furnish women with guns to fit their hands, with controllable trigger pulls that don’t require strong fingers to shoot fast and well.
Concealment holsters in stock designed specifically for female shapes and wardrobes.
Emphasis on training to accompany the products they sell, to build skill with the tools their customers buy to protect themselves and their families.
These are some crucial ingredients in the formula for success in cultivating and responsibly serving this particular segment of the defensive firearms market — but there are others, of course. What strategies have served you well in growing your customer base? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.