As a young Marine PFC pulling in just $620 per month, I never minded giving up my hard-earned dollars for quality merchandise. I could scarcely afford a new rifle or handgun, but I was always on the lookout for accessories for the guns I owned. Unfortunately, I was often talked down to, disrespected and treated as nothing more than an inconvenient customer darkening some counter space.
Fortunately, my experiences lead to a great takeaway for today’s evolving retailers — it’s not just how you sell; it’s what you sell. Here are 10 peripheral items that just might make selling big-ticket items easier, improve your ability to accessorize, increase revenue and keep customers looking longer than ever before.
Rapid/Field Gun Cleaning Kits
In recent years, manufacturers have innovated their butts off in the quest for fast, convenient, on-the-fly gun cleaning at home, on the range and in the field. Certainly, comprehensive cleaning is critical to proper firearm maintenance. However, in the midst of your customers’ busyness, complete breakdowns and thorough cleanings aren’t always practical. As a firearm-cleaning trend, pull-through, washable bore cleaners may just rule the roost.
Like the lighters and cell phone chargers often taking up counter space at your favorite convenience stores, boresights on the counter of a gun shop present the perfect have-to-have add-on consumers eyeball as they prepare to check out. Not only do boresights satisfy low-cost impulse buying at the counter, but they also make great gifts and save shooting enthusiasts money on ammo purchasing by helping them get on target faster during zeroing and sighting-in. Boresights are also perfect accessories to offer customers purchasing firearms and optics.
Pocket and EDC Knives
My pop always said, “The one thing you should always have is a good knife.” He wasn’t a knife aficionado by any stretch, but he did appreciate quality blades. His collection of small heirloom-quality blades was pretty extensive. Even now, most of my memories are of him doing one thing or another with one of those knives in hand. Another convenience store counter regular are pocket knives … cheap ones.
Unfortunately, those cheapos won’t attract many firearm buyers; we’re a finicky bunch with a penchant for quality equipment we can rely on, at affordable price points. Adding a small inventory of premium quality folding pocket knives from respected brands not only demonstrates that you care about the quality of products in your store, it affords your cost-conscious customers opportunities to add an every-day-carry knife, purchase a meaningful gift or just add to their collection.
Hunting Knives and Knife Kits
While heirloom-type and EDC folding knives are great eye catchers and, given a strategic location in your store, can definitely increase your sales, we also need full-sized knives and knife kits specifically designed to be abused in the course of cutting big, dirty jobs down to size. Some examples may be dressing out big game, clearing shooting lanes, cutting away heavy foliage, cooking or even gathering firewood.
These larger hunting-style knives (and knife kits) are available at a range of price points as varied as the budgets of the customers walking into your stores. Adding a couple at polarized price points may be a great way to satisfy just about everybody.
Related: Best Hunting Knives for 2017
Uppers, Lowers and BCGs, Oh My!
While AR sales seemed to have spiked again right up through the recent presidential election and, in California, leading up to the state’s latest barrage of right-infringing anti-gun legislation, it appears to have leveled off. The good news is there are still some folks out there like me with a real appreciation for AR rifles. And there’s a growing population of us ready to take on the challenge of building our own systems. It’s no secret that AR rifles are exceptionally modular in design, making them the perfect ground-up build or customization project.
With the DIY trend increasing, adding AR parts accomplishes more than simply adding another layer of retailer offering by helping customers piece together their perfect AR rifles. They also increase the potential for added sales via gunsmithing services and provide amazing opportunities to accessorize from bipods and optics to gun cases and even full-fledged safes.
Offering upper and lower receivers, grips, handguards and pistol grips is a great way to help customers put together their dream rifles. If possible, you might even offer bolt carrier groups, trigger assemblies, charging handles, buffer springs and tubes, muzzle brakes, etc.
Tactical Chassis for Bolt Action Rifles
A recent trip to SHOT Show revealed a growing trend in the tactical world, especially where tactical meets the challenging world of long-range precision shooting and hunting. Precision bolt-action rifles on tactical chassis littered the SHOT Show floor with some amazing examples. However, even more plentiful than complete tactical bolt guns, tactical chassis were easy to find and provide several great solutions for customers on the hunt for the perfect, completely customized and affordable precision rifle.
Considering cost to consumers, prices run the gamut when it comes to a world-class tactical bolt-gun chassis perfect for consumer projects. Chassis provide a perfect addition to your inventory when it comes to customers’ desires to build new precision rifles or resurrect those tired bolt-guns collecting dust in their safes.
Backpacks and Range Bags
Offering your customers cool shooting and other outdoor gear is good and providing a place to put it all is great. From hunting backpacks to range packs and bags, the more bang the pack offers for the hard-earned buck, the more apt your patrons are to buy it. Backpacks come in a variety of shapes and sizes from waist and daypacks to all-out backcountry packs, many models designed to not only hold shooting and hunting gear but rifles and bows, too. At a minimum offering, backpacks that at least hold a rifle are great additions to your store. Some backpacks are even designed to be range bags, complete with handgun compartments. Like backpacks, range bags also offer versatility in storing and organizing gear for competitive and recreational shooting and even hunting trips.
Soft-Sided and Hard-Sided Cases
Several models of soft-sided rifle bags — from a compact design perfect for folding-stock rifles, including SBRs, to standard size single and double tactical rifle bags — are good sellers. My double rifle bag fits two AR-15s perfectly, or my chassis rifle with the stock folded. Offering an assortment is important since rifle cases are generally quite affordable and consumers are typically more than willing to accessorize with soft cases that fit their needs and lifestyles.
Sure, soft cases protect your firearms from the elements and offer mild impact protection, but they definitely do not stand up to the way some airline employees like to load your customers’ checked luggage. When your customers need to be able to trust their investments are protected from the worst conceivable conditions, premium Mil-Spec cases from reputable manufacturers are a great solution. Important features include heavy-duty latches, high-density foam, watertight seals and even wheels for easier transport.
Firearm ownership is more than a right; it’s a responsibility. Fortunately for retailers, this also opens an opportunity to accessorize in a big way. People like me often need a bit more room, while new gun owners should be open to getting into a safe. Period. Today’s gun safes are decked out with great luxury features.
For example, some even take into account the multipurpose use of gun safes to protect jewelry by including a velvet-lined jewelry drawer, pockets designed to keep your documents cooler during fire, wand LED lighting and dehumidifiers. Of course, there is also plenty of room for your rifles, handguns and ammo.
Most certainly, you need floor space… or do you? Not so much. If you have room, it definitely does a world of good to have a handful of shiny new safes to show off; however, a number of manufacturers also allow special ordering and even drop shipping.
Take A Walk on the Wild Side: Trail Cameras and Calls
Understanding many firearm owners also enjoy hunting and other outdoor adventures, offering products designed to enrich those experiences can be a great way to lure customers in more often and keep them there longer. Moreover, if your location is not near a big-box retailer, your customers are likely starving for a place to procure a wide range of hunting and shooting products, especially in today’s culture of immediate gratification. If I can get product in my hand at your store today rather than waiting on shipping to run its course, I am heading your direction. Becoming that one-stop outfitting shop really is as easy as allowing your inventory to bleed into the other satellite passions of your patrons, i.e. hunting, tactical, personal defense, etc..
Trail cameras have become a top surveillance tool for hunters and personal security alike. From flash lighting to stealth LEDs undetectable by the human eye, and from onboard memory to SD cards, Wi-Fi and cellular services, trail cameras continue to be in the industry’s hot seat when it comes to innovation.
The Final Shot
While stocking up on the wrong products certainly isn’t a recipe for success, adding depth to your offerings certainly can be. By depth, I mean remembering that shooting enthusiasts often not only like shopping for firearms, they like exploring accessories designed to add practical convenience, turn the heads of their family and friends, increase security and even bridge into other passions such as hunting and other outdoor adventures. Stocking some shelves with cool, functional, affordable gear that satisfies shooting needs and bleed-over passions such as tactical, personal defense and hunting is a surefire way to bring more customers through the door, keep them browsing longer and increase sales.
Of course, circling back, good customer relationships breed sales, referrals and, put simply, is just the right thing to do. Be the kind of place that gives people something to look at and, like that old sitcom, “Cheers,” be a place “where everybody knows your name.” Without this attitude, offering everything including the kitchen sink doesn’t amount to much nowadays and leaves you at risk of being little more than an afterthought.
Featured photo: Partner with customer projects by offering uppers, lowers and other AR parts.