Gadget-Hungry Consumers Are Looking For Laser Sights, Bio Safes & Advanced Optics.
Consumers love high-tech gadgets — as evidenced by the booming sales of smartphones, Apple products, e-read ers and more — and shooters and hunters are no exception, scooping up high-tech accessories as fast as they reach the shelves.
“We’re struggling to meet the demand for our high-tech products,” said Iain Harrison, media relations manager at Crimson Trace. “Our biggest sellers are laser sights that fit compact concealed carry firearms such as the Smith & Wesson J-frame, the Ruger LC9 and the Ruger LCP.”
Patrick Shay is director of retail development at NSSF. Before he joined NSSF in mid-June, he worked at MidwayUSA.
“A lot of new, young shooters are ‘gadget guys and gals,’” he said. “They love gadgets and gizmos, such as high-end optics for long-distance shooting. Optics for 600- to 1,000-yard shooting are huge.”
The zombie craze is affecting even high-tech sales, Shay said.
“At Midway, we were selling an EOTech model sight XPS2,” he said. “EOTech put a plastic housing over it and what they called a ‘Biohazard’ reticle in it. Then they called it the Zombie Stopper. We couldn’t keep them in stock.”
David Welch, one of the managers at GTO Guns in Ocala, Fla., said only a couple of his high-tech categories have slowed down.
“We sell a lot of biometric safes, enhanced sights and laser sights, and high-end and high-tech flashlights,” he said.
GTO Guns’ best-selling high-tech products are high-end optics such as EOTech and Trijicon. Welch finds that customers generally aren’t interested in night vision equipment, and they don’t like satellite radio because of the monthly subscription requirement.
David Welch, manager at GTO Guns in Ocala, Fla., holds
a Core 15 rifle manufactured by GTO and fitted with a
Trijicon SRS sight and a SureFire Mini Scout flashlight.
At Shoot Straight in Tampa, Fla., the market is considerably different from that at GTO Guns. Here, only a few categories of high-tech products remain strong.
“High-end optics have dropped off,” said Scott Patrick, manager at Shoot Straight. “We also aren’t selling as many lasers as we had been. Most of my customers are hurting financially.”
High-end riflescopes and flashlights, however, still are selling.
“We do well with Nightforce,” Patrick said. “High-end Leupolds also do well, as do Swarovskis. We sell a lot of SureFire flashlights.”
Patrick also finds that customers at Shoot Straight are interested in affordable night vision equipment.
“The low-end night vision equipment is selling fairly well,” he said. “The more expensive ones don’t do too well for us.”
Patrick said his customers ask about thermal imaging products.
“Honestly, though, they don’t want to pay the money for them,” he said. “Once the technology for both thermal imaging and night vision become more accessible to the public, I think we’ll see sales of both increase.”
Smaller biometric safes are popular at Shoot Straight.
“We’ve sold quite a few personal hand safes from American Security,” Patrick said. “Customers are buying safes with electronic locks; we’re selling a lot of American Security, Browning and Winchester.”
Laser rangefinders also have remained strong.
“We sell a lot from Leica, Leupold and Nikon,” Patrick said.
Motorola’s new Talkabout MT Series two-way
radios are weatherproof, with enhanced audio
features and 11 weather channels.
Bushnell’s new HuntTrack Personal GPS permits users to mark
up to 25 waypoints, while providing simple distance and
directions to each location.
Demonstrations Equal Sales
In terms of dealer support, Welch said, Trijicon is “awesome.”
“They treat our staff members very well, and have some of the highest product discounts with which they reward them for education,” he said. “For POP materials, the best companies are EOTech and Trijicon.”
Patrick said his best dealer support comes from Leupold.
“Our Leupold rep is always willing to train, and to help us out with sales,” he said.
Two factors that contribute to strong sales of high-tech products, Welch said, are attending shows and pre-buying.
“You must go to the shows,” he said. “Vendors will tell you what’s coming out. That’s also the time to pre-buy; if you don’t, you’ll have a hard time getting products that customers want.”
Welch said most of his customers are educated about what they want before they walk into the store.
“They really just want reassurance from someone that they’re making a good decision, and to put their hands on the product and get to know it before they buy it,” he said.
Harrison said the biggest key to selling high-tech products is to understand them well enough to demonstrate how they work.
“The retailer needs to be able to demonstrate the advantages of a particular product,” he said. “For instance, we have a point-of-purchase display that lets people pick up a ‘blue gun’ with a sight on it; it’s a great a sales tool.”
Patrick has hired a number of former military personnel as staff members.
“They’ve used a lot of this equipment, so they can talk about it,” he said. “If you don’t know a lot about high-tech equipment, you’re not going to be able to sell it.”
Leupold’s new RX-FullDraw Compact Digital Laser Rangefinder,
designed for the serious bowhunter, features Trophy Scale, which
allows hunters to determine an animal’s rack size.
Viridian is heavily promoting the new Instant Laser Ignition
feature of its ECR-enabled lasers. Once set, the laser is
instantly on when the pistol is drawn from a holster.
Welch encourages his staff to keep their education — and their enthusiasm for high-tech products — up to date.
“We utilize both vendor training and 3point5 training,” he said. “Online 3point5 training — at www.3point5.com — is training retailers can use to educate themselves and their staff.”
Training at 3point5.com opens up opportunities for retailers and staff members to not only learn, but also to earn discounts and other rewards. This encourages frontliners to spend time on the site to learn as much as they can about the products they carry.
“After you learn about the product, you can take an EduGame test on it,” Welch said. “Whoever passes the test and has the fastest time from any retailer across the U.S. wins a special prize. You also can win discounts on a vendor’s products that you can use to purchase products for yourself.”
Welch said his sales staff loves using 3point5 and EduGames to earn discounts toward products. It’s a synergy that keeps staff enthusiasm high and creates sales: When sales staff use high-tech products and thoroughly understand them, they are better able to explain them — and sell them — to customers.
“We need to know the product better than the customer does,” Welch said. “The customer is looking at us for assurance that we’re selling him the right thing and the money that he’s spending is worth it.”
The bottom line, Shay said, is education.
“You must have a knowledgeable staff who can communicate their knowledge to customers,” he said. “They need to be able to talk about the features and benefits of each product. Sometimes a customer knows more about a particular product than a retailer does, and may have some very detailed questions about comparing one product to another. An educated consumer can get frustrated if the retailer is trying to sell the sizzle without understanding how the product works. If you try to address an educated customer’s questions without thoroughly understanding the product yourself, you’re probably going to lose the sale.”
By Carolee Anita Boyles