April 2, 2019
Behind the Firing Line: Centennial Gun Club
|Welcome to NSSF’s column for firearms range owners, managers, and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to recognize ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve NSSF’s Five-Star rating for excellence and 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.|
|—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Retail and Range Business Development|
Centennial Gun Club, Centennial, Colorado
This range and retailer is located 40 minutes south of downtown Denver just off of Interstate 25. The recently constructed building encompasses more than 35,000 square feet and includes a 5,000-square-foot retail store carrying an inventory of more than 1,200 firearms, plus an additional stock of 120 rentals.
There is a private, eight-bay, 25-yard lane VIP members-only range, with an additional 20 bays available for general members. The complex includes a large customer waiting area, a private lounge, offices, a conference room and two multimedia classrooms with a TI simulator. The facility also has a customer gun vault room where clients can store their firearms.
Memberships start at the Patriot Level, with an initiation fee of $347 and $34.95 monthly dues. The Patriot Couple Level has a $547 initiation fee and $59.95 monthly dues, while the Patriot Family has a $649 initiation fee with $64.95 monthly dues. The Patriot Corporate Level — four group/corporate members — has a $1,247 initiation fee and $32.95 monthly dues, and an additional person can be added for $220. The American Finest Level, for active military and law enforcement, includes a 20-percent discount on starting memberships.
Lane walk-in rental pricing begins at $22 per hour. Firearm rentals start at $15 per gun per hour, while full-auto rentals start at $75 per hourly sessions and firearms with suppressors are $25.
Centennial employs a staff of 50 full- and part-time employees. The facility operates seven days a week: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. 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.
We interviewed Richard Abramson, General Manager and Owner, for this column. The focus was to examine how this range courts its members as it competes in the growing Denver metro area.
Adopting a Member-Based Strategy
Since the inception of Centennial Gun Club, the company’s design was tied to a membership-based strategy.
“I came in with expertise in corporate turnarounds. I understood the value of cash-in-hand and creating a dependable income stream. Income allows a manager to choose their destiny, and not have the circumstances choose them,” said Abramson.
Centennial’s goal is to add 1,000 members a year. The club dedicates three, full-time staff members to membership acquisition. This team represents one-third of the overall marketing budget. Membership numbers are reevaluated continually in a process that includes assessing target goals, geographical maps, strategies and tactics. Demographically, the membership breaks down to an average of two-thirds male, one-third female, with a median age of 48.5 years, and the members generally live within a 30-mile radius of the facility.
Mapping Software Leads to Focused Marketing
Mapping software enables Centennial to see exactly where the company’s members reside. “Mapping our clients is a powerful exercise. We quickly can ascertain that certain areas deliver a much more consistent member than others. The visual is remarkable. It becomes immediately clear where our abundance is. This sets us on a focused marketing path, and we can pinpoint members on social and local traditional forms of regional media,” he said.
Taking A Cue from Another Industry
Abramson has continued to expand the company’s membership development knowledge. He credits some of that knowledge to interfacing with other retailer service segments, particularly the health club industry.
“No other business ties its survival to membership as closely as the health club industry. It’s how they sustain all aspects of their business. We can learn much from them,” he said.
One of the lessons learned from the study of other customer-service based industries was that Centennial didn’t actually need to offer a huge number of customer benefits. Instead, it identified the top needs of its customer base and placed a high focus on filling those in the best possible manner.
“Our primary benefits are range time convenience and first choice in program participation. Our club fills fast. We learned convenience in booking is what our customers want over anything else,” he said.
Although there are special sales, discounts and other member benefits, the ability to book time and participate in events keeps Centennial’s clients happy.
“We had a couples Valentine’s date night this year. Members could book first. They filled the event in just 36 hours. It doesn’t take long for non-members to realize that if they want to use the club more frequently and with better time choices, then membership is key,” he said.
Abramson said the use of a phone-booking app has made a positive difference in the bottom line. It has increased range bookings and reduced check-in costs and administrative contacts. Reserving through the app, guests can walk in and get right to shooting. All of these benefits tie together for a fun, efficient member experience.
Making the Face-to-Face Ask to Close Sales
While email, social media and AI have contributed to membership acquisition, face-to-face “asks” have excellent closing rates with non-member walk-ins. The best time is when the client is walking off the range.
“We approach clients as they walk off the range. The shooter is excited, usually pleased with their experience, and we’ve reviewed their range habits,” he said, emphasizing that asking a client to become a member is done as a soft sell. When using this strategy, Centennial’s closing rate approaches 30 percent. For those who don’t convert to membership, Abramson says it’s typically due to one of two factors, either the distance to the operation or because the client anticipates they won’t use the facility with enough frequency.
Building a Community of Members
Abramson was clear. The secret to building a successful membership base is having programs and a facility where members feel comfortable. Those programs must be enjoyable and engaging, and by building a history of strong events, Centennial has created a sense of community among its membership. Clearly, with more than 5,000 members to their credit, these strategies are some that other ranges can look to incorporate in their own models of success.