July 31, 2018
Behind the Firing Line: Nashville Armory
Nashville Armory, Nashville, Tennessee
This range and retailer is located 10 minutes from downtown Nashville, just off Interstate 65, and there is a second, smaller facility in Franklin, Tennessee, a southern suburb of Nashville.
The recently constructed building encompasses more than 20,000 square feet, including a 6,000-square-foot retail store that carries an inventory of more than 1,200 firearms and an additional stock of 130 rentals. The facility has 16 25-yard lanes and five 7-yard lanes, a large customer waiting area, office spaces, a conference room and classrooms.
Nashville Armory employs a staff of 29 full- and part-time employees (not including the Franklin location). The facility operates seven days a week: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Sundays.
Annual “Weekday Only” memberships start at $237, while the “Seven-Days-a-Week membership is $495. A corporate membership that can be used by up to five individuals is $1,975. Memberships include half-price on rentals, 10 percent off on training classes, free lane reservations and discounted FFL transfers. Lane rentals walk-in pricing starts are $20 per hour, with a second shooter in the same lane for an additional $10. Firearms rentals are $20 per gun per hour, with full-auto firearms available for $65-per-hour session.
As a Five-Star NSSF range, the facility meets best practices standards for its state-of-the-art design. This ensures a high level of safety and comfort for workers and customers. Nashville Armory was founded and is co-owned by Gary Semanchik. I interviewed Kennan Sanders, also a Co-owner and General Manager, for this column, and he gives the majority of the credit for the range’s success to Semanchik, then discussed with me how this range grows its new-shooter clientele in a competitive metropolitan area.
Smart Waiver Intelligence
There are plenty of ways for a range to track its growth and changing demographics within its customer base. Smart Waiver, an online liability waiver and range check-in program, has become a strategic tool that has surpassed this range’s expectations.
“We are continuing to find ways that Smart Waiver can tell us about our clients and their demographics,” said Sanders. “We require the Smart Waiver with every client to be signed, ideally before they arrive. The information it provides aids our marketing strategy quickly,” he added.
Initially, the range surmised it had a large customer base from bordering states. However, through Smart Waiver analysis, it learned that more than 30 percent of new shooters are from foreign countries and more distant states.
“We have an exceptionally high number of shooters from Sweden, the U.K., Australia and Canada. All of the clients are truly amazed they can come to our range and shoot full-auto firearms. That said, many are thrilled with just using handguns and shotguns alone. It’s a bucket-list experience for many of them,” Sanders said.
While the range’s original strategy was to market to a serious tactical clientele, it has evolved over the last few years to focus on the first-time shooter.
“Our research from Smart Wavier has shown us that because of our high vacation-client traffic, our first-time shooter numbers are hovering at just under 80 percent. In response, we modified our marketing efforts and have seen a strong, long-term growth curve,” he said.
Significantly, within the last two years, Smart Waiver has nearly tripled the number of customers in the client database.
Profiting From In-House Tool & Die
Originally, Nashville Armory outsourced its gunsmith services. However, in the last two years, that service has been moved completely in-house.
“One of our long-term employees was interested in gunsmithing. He enrolled in a technical program and came back to us as a gunsmith. He spent the last year working with our retiring gunsmith, and then we moved the operation completely in-house. This included an expansion into a full machine shop,” said Sanders.
The shop now has an exceptionally busy repair backlog just with its own rental firearms maintenance. “Our rentals have driven this expansion. With the constant need to service our full-autos and primary customers, this department has quickly become a profit center. The other obvious benefit is the increase in sales of our used firearms. We can now comfortably purchase used guns and guarantee their performance for our customers. It has become a profit game-changer,” he said.
Moving Beyond Conventional Advertising
In the last three years, advertising for this range has transitioned from traditional television, radio and print to a social media, event marketing and billboard advertising plan.
“It seemed like our classic ‘old school’ advertising wasn’t producing results. We made a move into Facebook with a closed group. When we posted an image of a Vietnam-era Colt 1911, along with a one-line description asking folks to come in and take a look, it sold the next day,” Sanders said.
He and his team found it astounding that by listing an in-demand used gun, it would sell within a few hours.
“The listing would post without any detailed description. The next day we had three calls, and someone would come in early and purchase the handgun,” said Sanders.
In addition to social media, Sanders found towing an electronic billboard around downtown Nashville makes a significant effect on the bottom line.
“When we tow our billboard, inviting shooters to our range, behind a truck in some of the busier tourist areas in Nashville, we see the impact the same day,” he said.
These alternative marketing opportunities have become so important that Nashville Armory has hired a full-time social media person and an event marketing salesperson.
Data-Based Decisions Equal Growth
Nashville is a competitive shooting marketplace, but Sanders acknowledged there’s room for growth.
“Although strategic planning is the foundation, we have to be nimble enough to adapt to evolutionary change. In many ways, it’s adapt or die. By making adjustments based on solid data, we have continued to propel our company to greater efficiencies and improved profits,” said Sanders.
NSSF’s “Behind the Firing Line” column works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence. Second, it works to explain how these ranges met specific criteria within the Star-Rating Range Program, so that other ranges working to make the grade can discover ideas and guidance for their improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.