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November 7, 2017

Behind the Firing Line: Shooters World


By Peter B. Mathiesen

Welcome to NSSF’s newest column for firearms range owners, managers and staff. “Behind the Firing Line” works to accomplish two things. First, it recognizes those ranges that have met the stringent requirements necessary to achieve an NSSF Three-, Four- or 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 own improvement. For more information on NSSF’s Star-Rating Range Program, visit www.nssf.org.
—Zach Snow, NSSF Director, Range Services

Shooters World, Tampa, Florida

Opened in 2012, this range is located just off I-275 in the northern suburbs of Tampa. This large facility sprawls over 62,000 square feet under roof. The accompanying retail store stocks an average of more than 3,000 guns, with nearly a third of those resting in used guns. There is a revolving stock of 200-plus rental guns. The range includes 27 25-yard pistol lanes. There are seven additional 100-yard lanes that can accommodate up to .50-caliber rifles. While scale is often relative and larger facilities require significant investment, it should be noted that Shooters World sees an average of one million rounds a month.

Shooters World employs a staff of 70 full- and part-time employees. This includes up to seven certified NRA range safety officers for each shift. Like all Five-Star NSSF ranges, the facility meets best practices standards for state-of-the-art design. This ensures the highest level of safety and comfort for workers and customers.

Design Best Practices Translates to the Bottom Line

Shooters World - Identifying bottom line
There are up to seven NRA-certified range safety officers present for every shift at Shooters World.

One of the largest facilities in the country, the Shooters World building started its real estate history as a furniture store.

“When we selected this building, we knew that size was key to making the facility inviting for our customers,” said Bruce Kitzis, Vice President.

Most retailers rarely get the chance to build from scratch when it comes to planning and design. In this case, the building palette was clean and allowed numerous options. The meticulous attention to the smallest details has made major contributions to the bottom line.

“We hired a designer for the layout and finishing of the range and store. When we started, we had no idea just how important that decision would be. The colors and the floor patterns were all specified by the designer — and it turns out they matter. We have a mix of bright colors and glass throughout the range. It gives the range an open feel, makes the environment inviting and really seems to make our women clients feel comfortable. I had no idea the waiting area would be the game changer that it has become,” said Kitzis.

Shooters World dedicated a significant amount of space to the waiting area. The large glass-enclosed area allows patrons to watch their friends and families shoot while they relax and converse with other guests.

“It has meant far more than we ever thought the space would be, especially to women and families. A guest can hang out without range noise and enjoy free coffee and soda while watching. Often, they come with a group to just watch. This generates interest, then they ask to shoot. It happens every day. They see that range shooting is fun and safe. It attracts moms, coworkers, grandparents and any demographic you can imagine that in the past may have shied away from the shooting sports,” Kitzis added.

Shooters World also offers ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) -compliant pistol and rifle lanes to accommodate guests in wheelchairs or with special needs, as well as ADA-compliant parking, ramps and restrooms.

Identifying the Sales Sweet Spot

Shooters World - Range sweet spot
Shooters World employees, often first-time shooters, get on-hands training from more experienced staff members.

While a large facility requires significant investment, Shooters World has found the sweet spot for sales, range time and rentals.

The average lane rental is between $15 and $18 per hour. Most shooters spend approximately 40 minutes at the rifle range and close to 25 minutes at the pistol range. Pistol rentals are $15 per hour. A shooter has the option to try multiple guns for $25 per hour. While the range does not allow custom-loaded ammunition, it will allow patrons to bring their own factory-boxed loads purchased elsewhere. The vast majority of clients purchase their ammo on site.

As a unique marketing draw, the company installed an interactive target camera system for each rifle range lane.

“Shooters love the cameras. They deliver instant feedback. Installation quickly attracted more attention to the 100-yard lanes. What we didn’t realize is how much more profitable the lanes would become,” Ktzis said.

The cameras allow shooters to see their results in real time. This translated into two unforeseen advantages. First, there was less maintenance and wear on the target retrieval system. Second, patrons shot more rounds in a shorter period of time.

“This often allows rental of the same lane twice in one hour,” said Kitzis.

Memberships continue to be on the rise at this retailer. A single annual membership costs $350. Typically, the average member uses the range three times a month.

Building Range Traffic and Sales through Events

Shooters World Women's Event
The Shooters World Ladies League women are as dedicated to the range as they are to their shooting skills.

It’s no secret that events build range traffic effectively and efficiently. This Tampa retailer has found they are a critical part of its marketing strategies. At this range, events are constant. Although they are not exclusively female driven, there are women’s leagues, the NRA’s “Refuse to Be a Victim” program and “Ladies First” events.

“It’s all about giving someone a reason to be here,” said Kitzis. “There are corporate parties, team-building events, bachelorette parties and Florida Hunter Safety Classes. The hunter safety classes drive an amazing amount business through our doors. They are first contacts with youth shooters and entire families. It generates an impressive amount of business long term.”

Kitzis mentioned that by mid-October, the available Christmas party spaces had already been filled.

Converting First-Time Shooters to Sales

Shooters World practices
Cameras on the shooting lanes provide customers instant feedback, a big bonus on the 100-yard lanes.

Ranges and retailers know the true industry prize rests with first-time shooters. An impressive, 15 percent of 2016-’17 sales at this shop went to new shooters. Of that number, more than half are women. Kitzis attributes this growth to a complex mix of variables. First, hiring excellent employees who are often first-time shooters. Next, maintaining a strong social media marketing campaign. Finally, making the store an inviting, no-pressure environment without a shred of old-school gun ego.

“We’re here to help our customers learn and enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment. That translates directly to impressive turns at the gun counter,” he said.

When was asked what he would change if he had to do it over again, Kitzis responded, “I would have put in even more lanes. In fact, I have no idea how a retailer can sell a firearm without a place to shoot it.”

 

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