It began as Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 1919, one year after World War I’s hostilities ceased. In 1938, it became an annual event and—to include the millions who served in World War II and Korea—evolved into Veterans Day by 1954. Flags still wave, bands play and thanks are given, but the holiday has morphed into a retailer war zone, making it hard for your store’s gratitude to rise above the marketing flotsam.

The history of Veterans Day is well recorded, but precisely how it became big-business remains something of a mystery. It’s certainly timed well for a Black Friday dress rehearsal.

A cursory look at the tactics employed last year indicates the storm of ads about to hit the proverbial beach have a singular strategy—get customers in the door and separate them from their cash on a long holiday weekend. One major retailer offered 70 percent off fine jewelry, another 40 percent off all apparel, a third matched that discount on every major appliance, bedding and furniture.

There’s another, highly applicable approach for tactical retailers who lack deep promotional pockets. Prominently feature products made by veteran-owned or -managed companies in your ads and on social media accounts. That “good will” message telegraphs something more than money savings. It’s proof to potential customers that you’re willing to give back and help the financial security of those who served. It could provide the kind of competitive edge that makes your store stand tall in the holiday tide.

Veteran Owned

Most of the firms aren’t big players — yet. There are some very pleasant surprises, however, in the diversity of products from which to choose. Apologies to any firms inadvertently omitted, because tracking down veteran-owned companies isn’t easy. Inquire on your own and you might be surprised what you uncover.

Riton Optics is growing in popularity among hunters and shooters thanks to strong service and quality products.

Troy Industries is one of the better-known veteran-owned companies in the firearm industry and the odds are good you have some of its gear already in inventory. Founder Steve Troy brings a wealth of military and law enforcement experience to the firm’s products, and they’ve proven to be very popular with tactical shooters. From back-up iron sights, to stocks, muzzle devices, rail covers, slings and even suppressors, you’ll find something worth featuring in your holiday marketing.

If you’re looking for a high-volume sales product to feature that every shooter needs, think ammo. Texas Armament & Technology is, “…owned and operated by knowledgeable, skilled and dedicated veterans,” and the company’s portfolio includes Aguila Ammunition. It offers centerfire, rimfire and shotshell fodder, including those 12-gauge minishells that were so highly sought after last year, that the company was forced to increase production.

They won’t reliably cycle a semi-auto, but in 12-gauge pump-actions the soft-shooting 1 3/4-inch wonders speed follow-up shots and give any home invader reason to reconsider his career path. They come loaded in birdshot, a fight-stopping mix of No. 4 and No. 1 and there’s even a slug version. The slight stature instantly increases capacity in tube-fed guns and velocity still hovers around a 1,200 fps.

The mighty mites have only one drawback — tumbling around on the elevator of a few shotguns. Mossberg owners were so vocal about the stoppage that another former member of the military engineered an eloquent and low-cost solution, one easily installed by the gun owner. The OPSol Mini-Clip, produced by veteran-owned OPSol, installs in seconds on any Mossberg 500, 590 and Maverick 88 (12-gauge). When bird season arrives, it comes off just as fast. The Texas company retails the gems for less than a pair of Hamiltons, so getting a few on the shelves isn’t a budget breaker.

If you’re putting centerfire ammunition in your ads, though, you’d better stock up on magazines, and it’s hard to beat HexMag. The company has a sterling reputation for its gear and was recently purchased by Sentry (Live to Protect) run by the same former Navy SEAL who founded BLACKHAWK! The company also produces grips, grip tape, rail covers and more.

That drug-store chain down the street rings up the sales, but in a low-margin business shelf space for Band-Aids, antiseptic and pain relievers — even though they are range bag staples — isn’t exactly common. If the unthinkable happens, they’re not very lifesaving, either.

Tactical Medical Solutions goes one better by offering civilian-versions of the IFAK that has saved so many during their Sand Box deployment. The company was founded in 2003 by a former Special Forces medic and builds a variety of molle-friendly trauma kits compact enough to minimize their footprint, yet provide all the key components needed in a life-and-death emergency. Best of all, any leftovers should be popular during the holiday shopping season.

When it comes to guns, there’s a variety of companies that qualify. G2 Precision’s models are all designed by former Navy SEAL Garrett Golden. Citizen Arms is owned by a former SOCOM member who specializes in custom work and can tune that gun to particular loads. There are many others and undoubtedly shop owners know several worthy of being honored in holiday promotions.

And if you think your customers would like to add Swiss Army knife versatility to their AR, take a look at veteran-owned Frontier Tactical’s War Lock, which replaces the barrel nut. “By changing barrels, magazines, and sometimes the bolt, your rifle can then shoot over 90 calibers,” the company website explains.

If your marketing tactics are a little more stealthy, consider veteran-owned Silent Legion’s line of suppressors. Prices for cans are rock bottom right now, and what better way of helping someone who’s served?

Of course, they’ll need lots cartridges to feed that utility gun, and there’s no shortage of up-and-coming ammunition manufacturers that qualify for inclusion. A good example of the quality smaller, boutique outfits is found at veteran-owned and family-run Defender Ammunition, where 85 percent of the employees are former members of the U.S. military.

Riton Optics is also veteran owned and has been making quality glass since 2013. Today it offers everything from CQB dot sights, to quality glass for connecting at long distance.

Staff and Discounts

The list of companies not veteran owned, yet staffed by an unusually high number of those who served, is staggering in the tactical industry. Mission First Tactical has a “significant” number, according to vice president Dave Edelman. Rise Armament does, too. Add Trijicon, Leupold and there are too many others to list. Inquire, and the information you glean could provide your marketing’s winning edge.

Every retailer’s Veterans Day ad will sport a red-white-and-blue theme, although most won’t mention added savings for those once willing to stand guard on the front line of freedom. Exploit that tactical oversight if possible. Offer a discount and announce or remind customers about it on the holiday. Those who served appreciate the gesture, are loyal, will tell their friends about the program and spread the news.

Consider, too, veterans are looked up to and respected at the range. They can be living, breathing word-of-mouth advertisements every time they step up to the firing line. Get them in the door, then treat them right by providing the kind of quality gear they expect, and deliver reliable service at a fair price.

Veterans Day is the ideal time to enlist their aid.