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The In-Store Advantage

The In-Store Advantage
Sharpen Your Retail Knife Sales.

Brick-and-mortar retail stores have been increasingly challenged by online merchants for years, with most recent sales numbers in the U.S. showing a near split between the two. Whether your firearms store is supplemented with an online outlet or not, storefronts offer distinct advantages over online shopping. With a little savvy, you can use these inherent benefits to increase your sales with little to no investment. For example, how are your knife sales? Great? Not so wonderful? Let’s look at how to increase your knife sales, even in today’s online-shopping environment.

A Captive Audience

Your in-store traffic is a captive audience. Customers are in your store because they want to be there. This provides a distinctive edge over online retailers, as you have an opportunity to show customers an array of knives and personally walk them through the benefits of each. Most knife manufacturers have countertop displays and signage that can draw customers to your cutlery. Knives are also great secondary sales if they’re not the primary purchase. The key is training your sales staff to make the knife sales pitch.

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Storefront retailers have the unique advantage of letting potential buyers
handle a knife firsthand. Here, Randy Yerkes (right), of Mark Outdoor Sports
in Vestavia Hills, Ala., points out the features of a knife to a customer.

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Savvy firearms manufacturers, such as Browning, offer retailers branded knives
— like this Browning Hog Hunter — for garnering added sales.

The Tactile Experience

The Internet, for all its benefits, cannot provide your customer with the tactile experience of handling a knife, nor the opportunity of a real live salesperson to extol its benefits. This is a huge advantage for a primary or secondary sale. It does, however, require your sales personnel to have a working knowledge of your various cutlery products, just as with any other item in your store.

Guns and knives have a lot in common — they both have a “business end,” and a central core revolving around steel and handle or stock materials for grip and comfort. Given the commonality of these basic traits, it shouldn’t be a stretch for any good salesperson to easily expand his knowledge of knives.

You might also designate one person as your “go-to guy” for more in-depth information on cutlery such as blade steels, handle materials and locking mechanisms. Chances are, you already have one person on your sales staff who is a knife expert. If others on your sales team need more information, they can call in the on-staff guru for support.

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Colt takes advantage of its rich history of legendary revolvers by offering
traditional knives such as its period Damascus and Stag Clip Point fixed-blade.
Colt knives are licensed by Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

Cross-Branded Knives

It’s a given — an overwhelming number of firearm owners also use knives. Firearms manufacturers recognized this decades ago by offering knives bearing their name alongside their main brand. Smith & Wesson, Heckler & Koch, Colt, Beretta and Winchester are just a few who participate in such cross-marketing, with prices ranging from highly affordable to top-shelf — and the selection runs the gamut from tactical and personal-defense to hunting and sporting knives. Brand loyalty is extremely high among gun owners, and you can use it to your advantage.

Many of your customers may not be aware they can purchase a knife sporting the logo of their favorite firearm. To educate them, display these knives alongside their firearm counterparts. In your advertisements, include images of knives next to the matching brand of firearm you’re promoting. These simple techniques will boost your chances of selling more knives, and the time, cost and effort are nominal.

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Upscale firearm manufacturers like Heckler & Koch have joined the cutlery market
by offering slick folders and fixed-blades manufactured by Benchmade Knives.
The HK-branded Conspiracy model has a 3.60-inch blade and high-traction G10 handle.

Mix And Match

Today, the retailer’s cutlery choices in all genres of knives have never been greater. In the 1990s through mid-2000s it looked like the sizzling tactical/survival/personal-defense end of the cutlery market was going to swamp the hunting and sporting segment of the business. But that hasn’t proven to be the case. The latter has not only survived, but has experienced an upswing over the past several years.

If your store specializes in only one of these major segments, there are plenty of knives in all budget categories to entice your customer. Keep in mind, however, many knives available in the cutlery market today are what can be called “cross-over cutters” — knives that are equally effective for a broad range of duties — from combat and survival to skinning and general camp tasks. You can cover a broad customer base with these knives.

The multi-tool is another segment of the cutlery market with broad appeal, and these tend not to be geared to a focused group of users, with only a few exceptions. Multi-tools are available in a wide range of sizes, and offering your customer a choice of each increases your chances of a sale.

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New for 2014, the Kahr Firearms Group introduced the Kahr Spyderco Delica4.
The knife is promoted as, “the perfect companion to Kahr’s compact pistols.”

Spice Up Your Inventory

About a decade ago, cutlery manufacturers began ramping up for the SHOT Show and today many use the show to showcase new releases — just like about every segment of the firearms industry and its ancillary markets do. In addition, the Blade Show is held every June in Atlanta. This is the mother of all cutlery shows, and manufacturers also release an impressive number of new products at this event.

The Blade Show comes at an advantageous time for firearms retailers. With fresh “hot stuff,” you can spice up your current inventory and seasonally adjust new merchandise for the year ahead. If attending the show is not in the equation, you can still get informed.

Shooting Industry publishes an annual Blade Show review of the latest releases and you can check your favorite cutlery websites for updates on new releases around early June. Don’t let the dealer down the street run away with potential sales by besting you in new cutlery releases.

Finally, if you have a website to supplement your retail store, you can optimize it to take advantage of knife sales. For instance, you’ve probably noticed those “If you like this, you may also like this” links that appear on specific product pages. There’s no reason why you can’t add a like-branded knife link to a firearms page. Small tweaks such as this not only create awareness of your knife inventory, but also increase your chances of an additional transaction. Think beyond what you’re doing now to promote your knives. Even small changes can increase sales — and your bottom line.
By Pat Covert

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