There were plenty of rifles for sale at ProArms Gun Shop in Live Oak, Fla.,
in early December 2012. Following the tragic school shooting in December,
there were no rifles available and few shotguns.
After the panic buying following the 2008 election of President Obama, the retail firearms sector had an excellent idea of what would happen if the president were reelected in November 2012. Industry people knew the mask of “we don’t want to take your guns” would come off if the administration won a second term.
Then came the atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Overnight, the strongest anti-gun surge in the history of this long and polarized debate hit with the power of a tsunami. Customers crowded gun stores, and dealers’ firearm displays were made bare as quickly as in a grocery store when a hurricane strikes. And resupply was almost nonexistent.
In addition, ammunition all but disappeared from the supply line. In February, I stopped by a gun and pawnshop West Virginia. I noticed a pile of Winchester Wildcat .22 Long Rifle on a shelf, something I hadn’t seen in weeks, and asked a clerk, “How much is that per brick?”
“Gotta see,” is what I heard him say. I took that to mean he’d have to look it up. He realized my Yankee ear hadn’t picked up what he was saying.
“Got a C?” he asked again, and to explain that he meant a C-note, he added, “It’s a hundred dollars a brick.”
It took me a moment to take that all in.
“Thanks,” I said, with a forced smile, “but I think I’ll pass.”
He smiled, apologetically, and said, “It’s not our fault.”
“I know,” I replied.
And I did know. For many weeks, as ammo prices skyrocketed, I heard shooters say in person and on the gun forums, “That’s price gouging!” And I know you’re dealing with that, too.
But it really isn’t. “The price is what the market will bear” is one answer, but not a palatable one for your clientele. You need to let that angry customer know what you know: “It costs me more now, too. I have to sell what I’ve got for enough to pay for the next shipment.” That’s reality.
“Supply and demand” is a better answer, but still not an answer that pleases your regular clientele who’ve grown accustomed to your regular prices.
At the local gun shop where I hang out, I gave the manager a copy of a neat little sign I saw on the Internet: “Due to increased ammunition prices, we can no longer offer warning shots to home invaders.” I suggested he run off a pile of copies, and hand them to people who complain about the prices of what ammo they have left to sell. He says it’s a tension reliever that cracks a smile with angry customers, and helps to correctly deflect the blame. Such a handout may also work for you.
Secondary Effects Of Ammo Shortage
Many gun shops have firing ranges, which are a significant part of their businesses. On the popular Internet shooters forum, GlockTalk.com, I noticed a fascinating thread on the topic of whether ammo shortage and price increases have curtailed shooting. A majority noted participation seemed to be down in places that didn’t have ammo for sale. (Of course.)
But a minority of those on the forum reported increased range business — usually at ranges which had ammo to sell to those renting the range. The limited ammo supply brought the added profit of range rental, when reserved for those customers who didn’t just buy the ammunition, but shot it onsite. That makes sense: If you have a range as part of your business, give the range priority for ammo.
For the majority of gun retailers who don’t have their own ranges, remember that no one buys an automobile or a generator when there’s no fuel for it, and the same is true of guns. That’s why wise gun dealers set aside some of their currently limited and precious ammo exclusively for customers who buy guns in that chambering.
Selling safety always makes sense, and dealers have a wide range of products to
offer their customers, including the GunVault MicroVault XL 1000.
Create Sales With Accessories, Classes
The main focus in the buying chaos has been on guns and ammo, but there are lots of other products to sell customers. Gun guys — your core customers — buy guns and gun-related products. If you can’t sell that hard-to-get product, sell an upgrade or accessory to the product your customer already has — he likely was planning to add the item at some point, anyway. If there are no modern sporting rifles in the pipeline, then an optical sight or a tactical sling gives the customer the reassuring satisfaction of being better equipped.
Safety products should always be at the top of a dealer’s must-sell list. Offering secure storage, from small vaults to full-size safes, makes sense, and your customers are probably thinking about the importance of protecting their firearms from unauthorized access — or theft.
Teaching people shooting not only ensures new customer flow, but also can be a profit center itself. However, how do you teach folks to shoot when you can’t sell them ammo? A pure gun-safety class — as opposed to a how-to-shoot program — can be taught without a shot fired. My primary job is teaching, and one of my most popular classes is a two-day “Rules of Engagement for Armed Citizens” course, which is all lecture and video. Or, you can hold a class on the proper cleaning, care and storage of firearms.
Your regular shooters who’ve become ammo starved might find new interest in airguns or even quality airsoft. Something is better than nothing for sustaining trigger time.
These are rewarding days of incredible sales mixed with the challenges of continuing to make sales when your shelves are not fully stocked. Create within your own store opportunities to draw customers.
By Massad Ayoob
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