April 1, 2015
Women in Your Store — Are You Marketing to Them, or Just Selling?
There is no doubt that the firearms industry is doing a better job of producing goods that work better for and better fit women. Long guns are better tailored to their physiques, handguns have grip options that improve the fit to a smaller hand and clothing choices for a range of hunting seasons and shooting activities abound where, just a few years ago, there were only a handful.
Recently, our Public Relations Director, Jennifer L.S. Pearsall, headed up several roundtable discussions as the annual and 10th anniversary meeting of POMA — Professional Outdoor Media Association. The topic of those discussions: How far have women really come in the past several decades and where are we going next?
Pearsall, a veteran of this industry of nearly 25 years, has seen first-hand how the product market for women has evolved over the years.
“When I began shooting competitively, during my early years working retail, there wasn’t anything for us,” she said. “There were no guns that fit, no clothes that didn’t have to be taken up, taken in and let out. If you wanted to shoot, you made do.”
“I was fortunate to have a couple other veteran industry women at the POMA roundtables, and they agreed, we’ve come along way in the last 30 years. We also agreed there’s still much room for improvement. But in what was perhaps most telling about those talks we had — not just with writers and shooting competitors, but also from a couple manufacturer’s reps and marketing pros — we came to the conclusion that, while women have more gear and guns that meet their specialized needs available as never before, only a few stores are really trying to sell any of it to us.”
When Jennifer told me about her talks at the POMA conference, that got me thinking. We spend a lot of time talking about how our retailers can grow their customer bases both with women and minorities. Top of that list is almost always having the goods in house that people want to buy, which certainly includes firearms, accessories and clothing for women. We also encourage retailers to set aside areas of their stores that concentrate goods for women and make it easier for them to shop and find what they need. That may be great for the customers already familiar with your store, but how does that drive growth with new customers?
Simply stocking the right merchandise won’t do it. You must seek out the places your prospective customers are if you hope to bring them through your front doors. That could mean placing your newspaper ads in the food, entertainment, arts and leisure and even the bridal section, rather than the sports section. It could mean taking out an ad in your local grocery store coupon flyer or advertising on a radio station that has a larger audience of females. With diversity outreach, similar efforts might include advertisements translated and placed in Spanish or non-English papers and radio stations that cater to local ethnic populations.
Your marketing efforts, of course, don’t consist solely of advertising. You must show women you are actually interested in having them become loyal, regular customers. You have to build a relationship with them just as you’ve done with your male majority clientele. Hold an ammunition “ladies night” with a special discount on popular self-defense ammunition or a discount on training class. Partner with a local range to sponsor the prizes for the women winners of their monthly competitive shoot. Or how about a Sadie Hawkins-type shooting event at your range, where the women shoot for free if they bring a date? We’ve seen at least one range that’s partnered with a restaurant and pub across the street from them for a full girls night out — an instructional class and shooting first, then put the guns away and walk across the street for drinks and dinner together — that’s proven to be a sell-out for them month after month.
Bottom line, if you want to reach new customers, you have to go out and find them. Think about how the people in your town live their day-to-day lives — where they go, how they shop, what kind of work do they do — and reach out to them on their own stomping grounds. A little shift like that in your marketing strategy could very well reward you with a store full of fresh faces.