Holiday Sales Strategies for the Tactical Business

It's the busiest sales time of the year. Here's how to make the registers ring with additional sales during the holiday season.

Holiday Sales Strategies for the Tactical Business

Photo by istock/Andy L

If Paul Revere were riding his horse in today’s business world and sounding the alarm, he’d cry out: “The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!” It’s during the holiday shopping season — that November through December period — when customers will buy far more than firearms. Nearly everyone entering your front door or visiting your online channels will be seeking accessories, lifestyle items, add-ons, large and small price-point gifts, and a wide range of shooting gear. You will need to have those items promoted, displayed and ready to move. Get ready — and get those shoppers’ attention.

While ammunition, rifle slings, cleaning kits and eye and ear protection are all strong holiday sellers, think beyond those standard items to the spur-of-the moment purchases that are often bought as last minute gifts on shopping lists — or because a shopper simply saw it. During the holiday shopping frenzy, those attention-grabbing items can be big movers, because they tend to be far less expensive than a firearm and require no paperwork or transfer fees. Being prepared with the right products, in the right places, can make holiday shopping seasons the time to ring your cash register loudly — and often.


Be Prepared to Guide Shoppers

The first hurdle with customers in the aisle with cash or credit cards in their pockets is catching their attention. During the holiday season, they are bombarded 24/7 with shopping messages through print, TV and social media. It’s sensory overload for many shoppers. If you have thousands of small and large items arranged up and down aisles and on the end caps, how do you catch the attention of customers?

One way is creating a special gift section within your store and organizing items there by price — essentially you pre-shop for the customers. You could sell far more under-$100 items than those more-than-$200 items if you have these items in displays that guide customers and are placed where the displays get noticed. This merchandising can be further broken down into other categories for easy shopping, such as for owners of rifles, handguns and shotguns, or maybe into range items, travel gear, storage accessories, self-defense and other categories. Display tables and special sections of wall hangers help customers see — and shop. Remember also that some of your shoppers during this season possibly only come visit your retail center once a year to shop for a spouse or friend who owns a firearm. Look at their point of view and offer a wide range of simple gifts to fill stockings.

As you plan displays and gear up for the rush of shoppers, remember to also let your employees know what items are in these displays and shopping center areas, and be certain employees know about the items and the benefits these products can provide for shoppers. They can expect customers to ask many questions, since many shoppers at this time of year will be shopping for a firearm owner and might not have much firearms knowledge. Patience could be rewarded with a sale.


Flash Means Cash

It’s the holiday season, and this time of year means a huge number of shoppers make purchases because something caught their attention. This is also the time of year when some items are available for a limited time. These attention-grabbing or limited-time products can be huge draws that pull customers to the front door.

In this category are flags, clocks, drinking glasses and steins, barbeque items and a wide range of lifestyle accessories, such as furniture or rugs, that will have special meaning with the end user. Branded items with leading company logos such as Browning, Kimber, Winchester, Delta Defense and others sell well during the holiday season. Yes, you can also move T-shirts, hats and hoodies with logos. Your in-the-aisle shopper might know the end recipient owns a certain brand of firearm and that’s the end of their knowledge. Help them make a selection when you see their confused or frustrated facial expressions.

Better news is that this is the time of year when customers seek these types of items and expect them to be available. It’s your job as the retailer to be certain you call attention to unique items and special branded accessories and lifestyle items. This can work to put you ahead of any competitors online and in your region. Consider an online or e-mailed holiday shopper’s guide as a list or possibly a flip-page magazine. If you are not proactive and working to invite customers in, you’re losing sales.

Next, as accessories and holiday items arrive, be certain these get shown and mentioned on your social media sites, across other channels and on your company’s website. If customers know you have it, they will come buy it. Holiday shopping success often hinges on grabbing the shopper’s attention.


Special Shopping Events

Embrace the holiday spirit — inside and outside. Consider a table with coffee or juices and cookies on busier weekend days. Hang the wreaths, turn on the string of colorful lights, and set the mood. Many holiday purchases are made because the buyer was in a good mood and wanted to please someone else — or themselves. Help them reach the good-mood stage.

Work to extend their shopping hours. Consider holding special select-shopper events. If you have customers who hold frequent shopper cards or pay membership fees at your range, consider hosting early-bird and after-hours events only for them and their family. You have a reason to work your top customer base — they are often your biggest spenders and always seek ways to add to their shooting enjoyment.

As a rule, consider avoiding competing for dollars on Black Friday. Many shoppers on this day are fighting crowds in the mega stores — especially the friends and family of your best customer base. Focus on the next day and the “Shop Local Saturday” drive, plus the online sales days. Note that shoppers spent around $7 billion in the U.S. on Black Friday in 2019 but more than $9 billion on Cyber Monday — the next week. Online sales are a must during the holiday season.

Be certain to check that any online information you generate can be accessed by both computers and phones — the trend is up in purchasing by phone, and this can result in new customers and more return shoppers. A growing strategy is online teasing to lure shoppers into the store with special in-store-only buys. Use social media and online channels to provide insight to new product arrivals or to advertise sales specials beginning on certain days or hours. Social media is the new retail advertising — and luring — channel with many customers. Plan to utilize this outlet to reach, engage and bring customers to the cash register.

Merchandising is a key step to holiday sales success. Place new arriving merchandise online the minute the boxes are opened, and plan to mention two or three top-selling or difficult-to-find items each day until December 24. Develop a product promotion schedule, but be prepared to be flexible. Listen to customer requests, keep notes, and promote items they are searching for when these arrive. When possible, push the option to buy online and pick up in-store as a savings for customers, but do also offer shipping. Convenience helps customers during the hectic holiday season. If you need more ideas, look at what the big-box retailers are pushing and how they promote. Most of those big retailers have stepped out of the shooting sports market, so you have less competition.

Plan ahead and be consistent in your holiday marketing strategy. Take notes of what works and what does not, and use these notes to guide your stocking and sales decisions this year — and for next year. Consider offering free shipping, e-coupons and discounts on specific days in product categories to keep customers engaged — and coming back. Your customers are comparison shopping in person and online, and saving them dollars or time could put you ahead in the selling game. Every purchase or shipment to customers should also include a printed flyer in the bag or box that promotes your store’s hours, upcoming sales, new product arrivals and other news and product details that could bring customers back a second time. Some retailers do this flyer on a weekly basis. As the owner, consider adding a personal thank-you note on all flyers and promotional messages, because most shoppers like to shop at retail centers that value their purchases and patronage.

Finally, remember to cross-sell. If you know a specific customer has purchased a new rifle or pistol in recent months, let her or him know via email that you have riflescopes, ammunition, slings, gun cases, pistol vaults and many other things that could meet their needs or interests. Millions of new gun owners entered the customer base this year thanks to our uncertain times. Items for the new gun owners that could convert to holiday purchases include travel and range bags, small pistol safes, locks and trigger locks, cleaning kits, home storage systems and more. Promote range time certificates and gift certificates if you offer these. Reaching out to those new customers is an effective use of your time and greatly builds that customer relationship. Use this opportunity to pass along information about pending sales, extended holiday hours, special events and other new product arrivals.


Employees Can Be Key

Once you have shoppers inside your retail center, it’s time to make a sale and ring the register. Coach employees to be on the floor and helping all shoppers. This before-the-holiday in-person shopping guidance can greatly reduce the after-holiday return and exchange rush. Let employees know that shoppers might not know anything about firearms and ammunition and that they should help customers make selections. Coach employees to not talk down to customers because of a lack of knowledge. That shopper before them could be the spouse or friend of your top customer, so help them shop and spend. Get their information (email or phone for text) to alert them of new product arrivals that meet their interests or price points. Shoppers are now receiving product information from various sources, so mix up your in-store and online shopping specials.

This year will present new challenges for retailers because of new norms, and you need to develop and refine your sales strategy early. The social distancing and online shopping trend will make planning and being prepared more of a priority in these uncertain times.

Remember to set the mood inside and at the front door, and add decorations. Consider having employees wear holiday items or accessories to increase the positive holiday shopping experience, and play holiday music in the background. Yes, customers are moody this time of year and make purchases because they are happy. Work to make customers get excited and open their wallets.

Finally, plan ahead for the week between Christmas and the New Year — a peak week for sales with firearms retailers. Be certain to establish return policies and gift card details ahead of this time, and explain these to staff so they can relay the information to customers when asked. Expect questions, and have answers.

Yes, the holidays can be hectic and challenging on many levels. Plan ahead, get employees prepared, and open the doors wide for customers. You have goods for sale and they have dollars to spend. Catch their attention, get products in their hands, and make that exchange of goods for dollars at the register.

Happy holidays and listen to the register ring!



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