February 24, 2023
Behind the Firing Line: Davenport Guns
It’s about the future of the industry.
Davenport Guns, which opened in 2015, is coincidentally in Davenport Iowa, with a population of 101,000 and the largest city in the Quad Cities quadruplex. The Quad Cities area consists of Davenport and Bettendorf Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island Illinois. Together they constitute a total population of 379,000. You may recognize the name Rock Island, and yes, it is the location of the famed Rock Island Arsenal, well known to the firearm industry, which has the region steeped in firearm history.
The store is an NSSF Four-Star rated facility with full retail, training and range operations showcasing a large retail space, full auto rentals as well as a V.A.S.T. (Video Action Shooting Target) system.
No stranger to firearm history is Jeanelle Westrom, owner and operator of Davenport Guns. She is the force behind this store’s success. Jeanelle cut her teeth in the firearm industry as a competitive shooter and is the daughter of Mark Westrom of Armalite Rifle fame. Jeanelle also sits on the NSSF Board of Governors. I had the privilege of talking to Jeanelle and asking her about running her store, the challenges of retail and how not just her store but the industry is moving forward.
Hank: “Jeanelle, it’s obvious your store is doing well and growing, but if you had to pick just one thing to describe your success, what would you say that is?”
Jeanelle: “Our focus is to do the right things to grow the sport.”
Hank: “Tell me more, what does ‘growing the sport’ mean to you.”
Jeanelle: “It’s about helping the general public trust us. It means being the place for people to try new things, like firing their first firearm, taking their first training class or even being the location where local media comes to ask questions. It is not about beating out the shop across town, it’s about making this a more welcoming industry for everyone.”
Hank: “So you are ok with talking to the media about our industry?”
Jeanelle: “Not only am I ok with it, but I am intentional about connecting with the local media so that we can use the media to build that trust.”
In talking with Jeanelle, it is obvious that she is intentional about many things when it comes to growing business. I asked her about how she sees Davenport Guns as well as other shops in the industry upping their game and helping to elevate the industry as a whole…
Hank: “Trust is incredibly important to have, as well as keep participants in our industry, but what steps are you taking in your store to make that first experience more welcoming?”
Jeanelle: “Hank, it is about creating an environment that is comfortable. Welcoming someone when they first enter your store is not just an anti-theft tactic, it is about lowering their guard.”
Hank: “I can see this is a critical factor in your eyes. Why is it so important to you?”
Jeanelle: “In opening Davenport Guns I made a promise to myself to never have a store where a woman would feel like she was the wrong gender when she came in. When you have a woman as a customer you get the children and when you get the children you get the future.”
Jeanelle could not have put it any better. The key is the future of this industry and what we can do to make that future bright. So, I went on to ask about her ideas for the future…
Hank: “Jeanelle, so for the readers, what would you suggest are some straight forward and simple things they can do to make their stores more welcoming, not to just women, but to people from all walks of life?”
Jeanelle: “Do not get mired down in maintaining the status quo. Embrace change. For the first couple of years after I opened the store, I thought I knew how to run a shop but then things changed. Working against that change only makes running a store harder, not easier.”
Hank: “So what are some changes you see coming our way?”
Jeanelle: “Well for one we now focus on accessory sales that connect with our customers. Be that items, memberships, services or training. This is where the real margins sit and truly make the difference in our ability to make profits. These things also add value to the customer experience beyond just buying a firearm.”
Hank: “Anything else you would suggest readers could do the moment they finish reading this?”
Jeanelle: “Engage with customers. Meet customers on their terms and treat them in the way they wish to be treated. Look at how you conduct business. Would a woman say to herself “what is a girl doing in here?” If so, take action to change your store’s culture. Hire staff to better represent your customer base. Work with your team to better see things from the customer perspective. Basically, do not give them an excuse to do business elsewhere.”
Jeanelle also goes on to say with a heartfelt laugh on her voice…
Jeanelle: “And, guys, for Pete’s sake, clean up your stores and make them look good. Be sure things are tidy, well-lit and organized. Remember, you only must be a little better than your competition to keep customers.”
Jeanelle sees it right, our industry is constantly changing, and adapting to that change is how a store has lasting power, be it new technologies like their V.A.S.T. system, changing their product offerings, being welcoming to new customer demographics or simply keeping things clean all lean into opportunities that stores have the ability to engage with every day, and Davenport Guns is doing just that and creating a lasting success…and future!
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