Most retailers believe online gun sales sites take business away from them. Trust me, I understand this perspective. Before I learned the ins and outs of what
GunsAmerica.com can do, I thought the exact same thing. In reality, GunsAmerica is not your competitor, but rather an online partner for increasing business in your brick-and-mortar store.
I recently had the opportunity to dig deeply into the question of how GunsAmerica does this during an interview with Austin Van Gilder, GunsAmerica’s dealer services manager. I asked him a range of questions regarding what GunsAmerica is, how consumers can purchase guns through the website, and the specifics of what GunsAmerica can do for all of the traditional gun dealers out there. Here’s what he had to say:
TR: For example, let’s say that I have a brick-and-mortar store. How are you not my competitor?
GA: Let me be frank. GunsAmerica is most certainly not your competition. In fact, it can be your best friend. It levels the playing field so you can compete with the large online retailers and build your business. GunsAmerica is a robust dealer services platform that promotes your store to bring new customers through your door while giving you the opportunity to sell guns online.
TR: In that same example, how would GunsAmerica increase traffic to my store?
GA: The buying process starts online for most of today’s buyers. If you don’t come up in a search, you don’t get the customer. Every month, more than 3.5 million gun buyers come to GunsAmerica to find their next firearm purchase. Many of them are in your trade area, and most of them would prefer to buy the gun from a local dealer so they can see the gun, save on shipping and transfer fees, and enjoy the customer service
that is only available from a local dealer. Posting all of your inventory on
GunsAmerica makes it easier for buyers to find you no matter what they are looking for. It also allows you to move inventory faster. Your inventory shows up at the top of the listings page for anyone who is within 50 miles of your zip code. These local buyers can buy the item while on GunsAmerica or purchase it in the store. Either way, it’s free for you.
TR: What do you mean it’s free?
GA: GunsAmerica introduced a new program for local dealers back in April so that all local sales are free. A dealer can sign up as a free Basic seller and post up to five local gun ads per month and unlimited national ads with one photo absolutely free. Or, they can choose the Trusted Seller membership package and have unlimited local listings, an online store and access to automated inventory management tools that make posting hundreds of guns fast and easy. The Trusted Seller membership level only costs $49.95 per month. Either way, there are no charges for local sales. You are only charged if the item sells to a buyer outside of your trade area.
TR: There are some services that allow dealers to sell from a distributor’s inventory without having the gun in stock. Do you think this is good for the industry?
GA: There are so many guns and variations of the same model that no dealer can inventory all of them. By exposing the distributor’s inventory, dealers can attract more buyers into their stores. However, it becomes detrimental when FFLs use distributor inventory without maintaining their own inventory. This is the reason why many dealers feel that online dealers are competing with them. They don’t maintain a store, and they sell at lower margins without supporting the local market.
TR: Does GunsAmerica have any services that allow stocking gun dealers to compete with online sellers who are simply using distributor inventory without maintaining their own?
GA: Yes. We have “48 Hour Guns” that uses distributor feeds from Sports South, Davidsons, Bill Hicks and RSR. Trusted Sellers who are stocking gun dealers can enroll in the service as part of their membership and use these distributors’ inventory to attract new customers.
GunsAmerica’s system matches inventory that dealers have in their store with the distributor’s inventory. When a dealer has a matching item, it shows to buyers as “in-stock” so they can buy directly from the dealer and avoid ordering from a distributor. When there is not a match, it shows that they can get the gun within 48 hours as the name indicates. This system ensures that dealers move their inventory before being forced to buy from the distributor. The dealer is notified when a buyer selects a gun that he or she does not have in stock and is directed to a distributor that has it.
TR: What about dealers who don’t have a website? Even though they might want to sell to local buyers, don’t they need some kind of presence when people are shopping online?
GA: Dealers’ websites are the modern-day equivalent of a Yellow Pages ad from the past. If they don’t have a website, they don’t have an ad. GunsAmerica offers customized website hosting for only $39.99 per month. Our live storefront application allows dealers to create their own personal website complete with a shopping cart so their customers can purchase directly from their website. It’s quick, easy and less expensive than having a local web guy put one together. Dealers also have access to distributor inventory on their website to show as their own. Best of all, by using GunsAmerica’s website tools, dealers can maintain their inventory on GunsAmerica and their website at the same time.
Creating a custom website can be set up in just five clicks. We can host the website for dealers, or they can use a personal domain name if they have one. After the initial setup, we will help finalize the design and answer any questions. It’s a great way to start a website and build your own online customer base.
TR: Many of the online payment tools such as PayPal do not allow firearms sales. How do you recommend payments be made?
GA: The best way for payments to be made online is with credit cards. It’s the fastest, easiest and safest way for buyers to pay for items. Enabling online payments is the No. 1 way to increase sales. Buyers can pay online when they find the gun they want at 2 a.m., and then go into the store the next day to pick it up.
It is also easier for dealers if they want to have the gun shipped. All they have to do on GunsAmerica is accept the payment and enter the shipping information.
GunsAmerica’s communications system takes care of the rest by informing the buyer that the gun was shipped to their selected FFL and providing a receipt.
If a customer does not have a credit card, then we recommend buyers pay with USPS money orders. They are extremely hard to counterfeit, can be tracked and are as good as cash.
TR: There have been a lot of stories about credit card companies cutting off dealers. Is there anything a dealer can do to protect himself?
GA: GunsAmerica is partnered with Merchant Services, LTD (MSL), a gun-friendly credit card processor. Dealers will never be left stranded or wake up one day to find their accounts frozen because the bank is anti-gun. MSL uses two gun-friendly banks so that if one decides to change its policy there is always another waiting for its business. It provides next-day funding on retail sales from Visa, MasterCard and even American Express. MSL saves dealers money on their processing 99 percent of the time, and they offer a simple deployment and take care of all the paperwork.
TR: What fees are associated with using GunsAmerica?
GA: All sellers on GunsAmerica can post unlimited national ads with one photo free. When they sell a firearm on GunsAmerica as a Basic member, they pay a minimum of $20. Selling fees for accessories and non-gun items is a $2 minimum. However, all local sales on GunsAmerica are free. Any item sold within 50 miles from the dealer’s zip code has no after-sale fees. Only national sales incur a selling fee.
Dealers who have a larger inventory benefit from one of our paid membership levels. As a Trusted Seller they receive a 50-percent discount on all selling fees and listing enhancements on GunsAmerica and pay only $10 per firearm sold. There are also no after-sale fees for non-gun items and accessories. Sell as many accessories as you want with no additional charges. This membership package pays for itself after selling just six firearms per month. Trusted Sellers are also allowed to upload a custom store logo or banner and display the store phone number directly on the listing page. No other membership level is allowed to show phone numbers.
TR: What is the best way for a dealer to start using GunsAmerica?
GA: Dealers can sign up to start selling by simply visiting GunsAmerica.com and creating a new account. Creating an account requires basic information such as an address, phone, email and a credit card. The credit card on file is used only when an item sells or if the dealer decides to upgrade their membership.
During registration, there is an FFL section for dealers to enter an FFL number, transfer information and store hours. By using the FFL and store details, buyers are able to choose the store to accept the delivery and the transfer of the firearm. This is just another way to get new buyers in the door.
GunsAmerica also offers personal, one-on-one dealer support. Dealers can rest easy knowing they have a phone number to call during business hours and a personal email for 24-hour assistance whenever it may be needed.