Retail Stores are Dying – Gun Stores, too?
Local Stores Struggle to Survive - What does the future hold for gun shops?
With the advent of the Internet and retail behemoths such as Amazon taking over the online marketplace, physical retail locations have seen a marked decrease in profitability.
The same is true for the firearms industry, with everything from training to accessories being available online, and consumers can buy and sell weapons online as well; they just need an FFL to transfer to and from.
Obviously, the traditional retail method has changed and it would behoove the local gun store owner to adapt to this style of business as well.
How does the local gun store differentiate itself in these times of digital deals? Well, there are several ways.
First and foremost would be to make sure you’re already the authority for your local customers. They are your lifeblood as a brick and mortar, and it’s up to you to provide them with the highest quality products and services available.
Make sure your shop is clean, orderly and that your staff is well-trained, both in salesmanship and product/service knowledge. If you’re squared away in these areas, then it may be time to consider expanding on what you offer at your store.
There are some things that online retailers just can’t do, and these are the areas where you should focus.
While customers can send their firearms in to the manufacturers to have certain jobs done, a local gunsmith gives people the option to have specific work done, or get an issue fixed much more quickly. If somebody wants to have Cerakote applied to their gun or slide cuts done, having that option nearby is usually preferred over sending the firearm somewhere. Having custom work done locally also makes it easier for the customer to consult with the technician to make sure they get exactly what they want.
Click & Mortar
While it sounds like something used by artillery troops, this is actually a retail term for stores that sell at a physical location as well as online. The supplement store GNC is a great example of this, and they combine these two retail methods very well.
For example, if someone comes into the store and buys a protein supplement, then GNC will follow up after a short period of time with an offer on a good add-on supplement, or with a discount coupon for the next time the customer buys protein. Selling your products online is an amazing way to expand your reach to people outside of your geographic area, bringing in additional revenue with a relatively low barrier to entry.
While digital marketing can get quite complicated, setting up an online storefront is fairly easy and with consistent work on things like social media and content creation, you could build up a sizable online following that also purchases from you.
Not all gun owners have a passion for working on their firearms, and some would prefer to have an experienced technician clean their firearm and have it done right than clean the gun themselves. On top of that, ultrasonic gun cleaning is a service that very few gun owners can perform themselves, regardless of their enjoyment of cleaning their own weapons.
Being able to provide these basic and advanced gun cleaning services to your customers, especially if you also have a shooting range at your location, is a great add-on service. Consider creating a bundle for shooters such as range time, targets, ammo and cleaning for a slightly discounted price.
While there is some fantastic training available online from companies like the USCCA, it’s hard to beat training in person. If you manage a range, consider adding various levels and types of training to your service selection. Bringing in guest trainers can also be beneficial, and gives you the opportunity to leverage their notoriety to bring in more students.
These training opportunities bring in everyone from entry-level gun owners taking their first concealed carry class, to advanced law enforcement students there for a day of training with a high-level firearms trainer. More people in your store means more people buying things at your store, and they’ll come back when they realize yours is the only store that offers such excellent service and support.
If you don’t have a range, then consider a virtual range, which takes up significantly less space but offers a plethora of training choices.
Many people do not know how to properly sharpen their blades, and offering this simple service is a great add-on that can be done while the customer is shooting at your range or browsing in the store. With a professional sharpener, it does not take very long at all to get a great edge on a knife, and addressing the service from the perspective of a life-saving necessity is a great way to sell knife sharpening.
While these are just a few options that could help make you stand out from local and online competitors alike, there is one thing that must be present in your business to help it succeed, especially against online stores: Community.
Building community in your business has a multitudinous effect. It simultaneously gives people a reason to come together, builds trust in your business, and will bring people back to you over a long period of time, and it’s likely those people will bring their friends and family, too. Building a loyal community around your business takes time, but will have lasting positive effects on your business.
You will build in word of mouth and referral marketing, repeat customers and establish yourself as the leader in your local area. An intrinsic value of creating this type of culture and community is that your business will become a more enjoyable place to work for you and your employees.
The fact remains that traditional retail locations are struggling in today’s marketplace. However, by appealing to your customers desire of wanting to belong to a community and being creative with the services you offer (and how you offer them), you will set yourself apart from big box retailers and the local competition.
Adapting to the change and adjusting your strategy accordingly will aid you in not only keeping the doors open, but also help your business prosper into the future.