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July 20, 2017

Facts That Help You Sell: Hunting’s Biggest Demographic


By Jim Curcuruto, NSSF Director, Industry Research and Analysis

With the year at the halfway mark and summer under way, firearms retailers across the country are beginning to shift their inventories in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons. While every year brings your regulars into your store for their annual box of sighting-in ammo, maybe a new pair of boots for the colder months, there are many more hunters out there tapped into all the current hunting technology and looking to upgrade. Those equipment upgrades — whether gun, optic, clothing, treestands, decoys and dozens of others — can be your year’s silver lining. But how do you know what to stock and, more importantly, market it to the right audience?

NSSF Report: NSGA Shooting Sports Participation, 2017 EditionNSSF recently partnered with the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) to look at who’s participating in the shooting sports and hunting. The resulting report, “NSGA Shooting Sports Participation in 2016,” provides a treasure trove of answers to those questions, giving retailers an easy way to tap into their customers’ needs and stock the merchandise that will generate high turn rates and profits. Let’s look at just one of the highlights from this report and examine how working with this information can help you do just that.

Winning the Biggest Demographic

In 2016, 33 million people participated in hunting or target shooting in the US. Of that number, the largest group of participants are those in the 25- to 34-year-old age range, which topped out at 6.7 million participants.

What can you do with this information?

Inventory — While your annual sighting-in ammo buyers are true to you and you’ll want to make sure you have on hand what you need, they aren’t your profit center. That center, it should be obvious, is with those 25- to 34-year-olds, because they’re the ones with the highest participation. So, if your store is lacking in customers falling into this age group, then you’ll likely want to add inventory that interests this group specifically.

Think about what you wanted when you were that age. Likely the latest and greatest, right? That means you better be up to speed on the products that are cutting edge technologically. For instance, you’ll want to have this year’s trail cameras (because last year’s are so, like, last year). Same with clothing and footwear.

Remember that when you focus your inventory on goods that are more complex — advanced fabrics and camouflaging in clothing and footwear, connectivity to smartphones and tablets for trail cams, etc. — your staff will need to understand and be able to fully discuss with their customers all the advances in this year’s products over last year’s. This customer group can be savvy in their buying decisions — they know where to find information, and it’s all just a click away — so you’ll need to wow them with customer service and expertise to earn the in-store sale instead of losing it to the Internet. Of course, the benefits of having your staff educated on new inventory won’t be limited to just that group of rising young professionals and hipsters. That kind of well-versed staff will be able to convert hunting and shooting sports participants of all levels and demographics into the loyal customers that provide you with steady business.

Marketing — If you’re going to stock the inventory a younger, educated crowd will buy, you’ll have to let them know you have it. So, if your annual marketing has been to place an ad in the Saturday sports section of the local paper, you’re going to need to change things up. Improve your store’s web presence (including its ability to rank high in search results), expand your social media outreach — Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — and work with an ad agent who can help you place cyber ads in the right places. Another trending tactic is to include short video clips on your website and social media posts, especially those telling about products both new to the market in general and new to your store, but you can mix it up with things like “Shooting Tip of the Week,” “Gun Care Tip of the Week,” anything that’s short, sweet and grabs the viewer’s interest, leading them to view you as a go-to resource for all things firearms.

Creating New Markets — With an age group that’s prone to wanting to always have the newest thing on the market, you may have an unrealized used product market at your fingertips. Sure, most firearms retail stores sell used firearms, but what if you were to create a used goods section for other merchandise — optics, clothing, last year’s trail cams, last year’s bows, etc? That 25- to 34-year-old group is one that’s embraced a world with less waste, so if you provide them a place where their previous purchases can be recycled — something those in older demographics and who aren’t so inclined anymore to always have the newest of everything will appreciate and take advantage of as a bargain — you’ve put money in your pocket, money in theirs, and when they buy this year’s latest, more money in your pocket. You’ve also become more valuable to those looking for bargains — especially those annual customers that tend to buy only what they need and rarely invest in new equipment — because you now have a steady, ever-changing supply of those bargains in stock. You could do this by cash-offer purchasing of used good from your customers or setting up consignment sales, but either way, you have more potential for cash flow than if the sale takes place on Craigslist.

This is just one example of what you can do with the “NSGA Shooting Sports Participation Report” when you examine its statistics and compare them to the customers your store is seeing and the goods it’s selling them. There’s much more. The report looked at nine shooting sports activities such as hunting with a firearm (18 million did this in 2016) and target shooting with a handgun, rifle, shotgun or airgun, as well as demographics across regions, states, gender, age and income.

The report is free to NSSF Voting Members and $150 to all other NSSF Members. Non-members may purchase the report for $1,500. All of NSSF’s research papers and studies can be found at the NSSF Online Store. Questions on this or other NSSF research? Contact research@nssf.org Need to join NSSF? Visit www.nssf.org and click on the “Join NSSF” link at the top of the page.