May 8, 2015
Partner Up — Five Ways Retailers and Ranges Can Profit Together
For many retailers, this is the time of year foot traffic begins to drop off. There’s no mystery as to why: the weather’s gorgeous and your customers are taking advantage of it by participating in every outdoor shooting sport they can. Now, you could simply while away the slow hours, giving those shelves and displays an extra dusting, but wouldn’t you rather do something that’s more profitable?
Now is the time to reach out to the shooting facilities in your area and have some discussions about ways you as a stocking, full-line firearms retailer can benefit ranges that don’t have significant retail sales and discover ways to share their customers to the benefit of both your businesses. There are many ways to do this. Here are our top five picks.
It’s fair to say that a majority of shooting ranges keep ammunition on hand. But do they carry the volume or variety you do? Too, do you as a retailer find you have to scale back orders and experience a slowdown in ammo sales once outdoor shooting sports activities pick up? Why not partner with the range on a bulk ammunition purchase? As the bigger stocking dealer, you’d likely receive a better discount for an even larger purchase. You keep what you need, the range pays for its share of the order, and everyone wins.
Official Match Supplier
Another way to work with ammunition is to offer to supply the ammunition needed for local matches and tournaments. Many clubs and regulation shooting matches prefer or require that all competitors shoot the same ammunition, thereby evening the playing field on at least some level. Work out the quantities needed with the range, then set up a table or tent at the match to sell the ammo to competitors, or simply set up a table or tent and deliver it to them if the ammo is part of the entrance fee (in which case you would have worked out who’s paying for how much of it in partnership with the range). If you couple this effort with signage for your store, store fliers and business cards, then the competitors will quickly learn that you’re making the effort to become a resource for them.
Be the Pro Shop
Do you have shooting facilities in your area that don’t have much in the way of a pro shop or retail sales at all? That signals an opportunity for your store to become that pro shop. Meet with those range facility managers and get a feel for what products their customers ask for and then work out a way to advertise your store with that range to attract their customers. The sky’s really the limit here. For instance, you could have the range display samples of the products their customers want and need and that your store carries. You could also print up monthly fliers advertising specials on specific gear those shooters utilizing a particular range would be interested in. In return, you’d carry the range’s fliers in your store and help steer other interested customers to them. You’ll also make sure that the range staff knows how to give their customers directions to your store and is knowledgeable about the products you carry, just as you and your staff will be knowledgeable about the range’s offerings, including fees, hours and directions to the facility.
It may take more than a counter full of fliers to get staff at both your store and the range spreading the word and seeing customer flow improving in both directions. So how about incentivizing the effort? For instance, you could offer the range a cut of the profits from the purchases of specific items made by new customers the range has sent to you. The setup could be something as simple as a business card from the range with the associate’s name there and a pre-typed line that says, “Joe Smith is sending Bob Jones to The Bullet Trap to buy a new Brand XX scope.” Or you could work out a deal where any customer a range sends to your store and who makes a purchase then receives a coupon that provides a discounted range fee. You can even tie that coupon to specific purchases visitors to a local range would customarily use, with your store picking up the tab for the coupon discount each month, something like “Buy Six Boxes of Brand ABC .223 from Steve’s Target Depot and Get a Coupon for 20-percent off your next hour on the 100-yard range.” Any variation or combination of these ideas can work, and the terms can be as flexible as you and your partnering range desire. What matters is that both your store and the range are committed to cross-promotion that works to increase traffic at both venues.
Lead the Class
Partner with a range to hold regular instructional classes or clinics. Beginner safety classes are always a good bet, but this is especially true for your first-time firearms buyers. By partnering with a shooting range to provide such classes, you enhance the “hand-holding” many first-time firearms purchasers want and need to encourage them to practice regularly and discover the wide array of shooting sports available. This, in turn, makes your store a “value added” proposition for those customers, thereby improving your chances of turning those customers from one-time visitors into loyal, repeat clients.
Beginner safety and instruction classes are a great place to start, but there are many more ways to build on this concept. Do you have a staff member who’s an avid competitor in a certain sport? Why not put on a little clinic at the local range that explains that sport and how to get involved? How about a staff member who reloads? You could easily hold a clinic on that subject at a partnering range facility, complete with information on how to buy the right equipment — at your store of course — to get started. Same for your resident gunsmith. He or she could easily partner with a range to set up a day to perform trigger jobs or scope installations. You could even offer to set up a tent for quick fixes, emergency repairs and cleanings during a match and be the “official match gunsmith.”
And the Winner is …
Area matches, tournaments and leagues are another prime opportunity for getting your store’s name and reputation out there. Such endeavors can be as small or big as you want them to be. On the small side, consider sponsoring a stage or station at an IPSC match or sporting clays tournament, maybe even with a random prize given to the best time or the fifteenth person to shoot the stage. Go a little bigger and sponsor a side match or game, with gift certificates that can be redeemed at your store as the prize. You could do the same thing with a monthly or seasonal league. Sponsor the prizes for, say, the winning women’s team and make sure some of your staff members (especially any female staffers) are shooting the league, too, so that other league participants get to know your staff on a more personal basis. Of course, you can go all out if you have the staff available and can set up a tent at a match or tournament, one that’s complete with inventory related to the game at hand and that can be sold on site. Do something like that along with a notable donation to the prize table and plenty of signage, store fliers and business cards, and competitors will sit up and take notice that your business is reaching out to them and showing a commitment to the shooting sports they’re interested in.