What Women Want From Gun Store Owners

More and more women are walking through your doors. What do they expect when they're shopping for a gun or other items?

What Women Want From Gun Store Owners

Women have been a key factor in firearms sales numbers in recent years. Add a pandemic, rising violence and campaigns to defund law enforcement to our new normal, and more women than ever are invading gun shops.

Women continue to take action to protect themselves and their families, purchase guns, take firearms training courses, spend time at the range, go hunting or enjoy sport shooting and share their opinions and experiences with others. So, ignore or misunderstand them at your peril.

A May 2020 survey of firearms retailers by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) estimates that 40 percent of sales in early 2020 were to first-time gun owners, and 40 percent of the first-time gun buyers were women.

“We’ve seen an incredible increase in new female customers in our shop,” says Marna Miller Tracy, a U.S. veteran, owner of Tampa Tactical Supply in Tampa, Florida, and savvy retailer. “The overriding reasons for them considering or purchasing a firearm are fear and protection.”

“Women aren’t different from men,” says Tracy. “They deserve the same respect and customer care as men. But, the truth is, many retailers fall short on effectively working with female customers because women buy differently than men and are guarded about our man’s world.”

Women vary from men in their perspectives, motives, rationales and actions. Smart retailers adapt their customer service and outreach to address the differences. Advertising style, message, product design, store layout, sales training, and customer service policies should be designed to appeal specifically to both sexes.

“Women are (also) a sensitized population,” explains Marti Bartletta, president of TrendSight in Lincolnshire, Illinois, and one of the nation’s top experts on marketing to women. “When selling to women, salespeople must understand this truth. Most women have had enough experience with being slighted or treated inappropriately in certain sales situations that they’ve come to expect it. Not that they are tolerant of it, but forewarned is forearmed, and they’ve learned to at least be on guard against sexism.”

Avery “Skip” Skipalis, a wife, mom, girly girl, woman of color and bad ass admits she’s still surprised at the poor treatment women encounter in the retail firearms marketplace. Skipalis is active Air Force and a military firearms instructor. She also owns a lucrative firearms training company in Tampa, Skip’s Tactical Solutions.

“Even when I have on my professional training polo, my range bag in hand and students with me, I experience bad treatment and lots of judgement,” she adds. “I’ve learned how to handle it and how to talk up or down to deal with it. But many women won’t deal with it. Once they turn and walk away, they’re most likely gone for good.”

When Skipalis, Tracy, or any woman enters a gun shop, drops by a show booth or steps onto a gun range with other women, they’re prepared for reality but hope for more. What is that reality? Well, let’s just admit — you’ve come a long way, baby, but you’ve got a long way to go.


Reality checks:

·               A couple walks into a firearms retailer. A staff member smiles at the woman, then turns to the man and asks how he can help him.

·               While a woman is looking at firearms in the showcase, a staff member says, “Hey little lady, what can I do for you?”

·               A slight-framed woman steps up to the counter and announces she’s there to buy a .44 magnum revolver. No meaningful conversation ensures. She walks out with a gun she might not be able to handle or that might not be viable for situations she may encounter.

·               A group of gals on the range realize they have an audience — several staff members standing back watching their every move, as if they were aliens.

“If we want to continue to grow the female gun-owner segment and retain those who have flocked to our stores, we must acknowledge our messaging and customer service shortcomings and implement actions we know are effective when working with women,” Tracy says. “With a few tweaks, retailers can make women feel welcome, ensure they have excellent experiences and leave our shops with products and a training plan that fit their needs.”

Map Out a Plan: Spend time with staff talking about women’s buying habits and how to appropriately interact and communicate with women. Urge staff members to offer suggestions and insight. Employees whose opinions are sought and who are actively involved in a planning process have more skin in the game and feel valued, which comes across when interacting with customers.

Set forth female-friendly service practices and discuss marketing and merchandising ideas. Make sure everyone is on the same page and willing to step up to provide women the buying experience they hope to enjoy.

Avoid Assumptions, Stereotypes and Judgements: These sales mistakes are as old as selling itself. Don’t pre-qualify your customers — for your benefit and theirs. Welcome every woman individually and equally to any male customer. Don’t patronize or condescend. Be genuine in your desire to help.

“Compared to men, women have extrasensory sensitivity,” explains Bartletta. “They are able to register more subtle levels of sight, sound and touch. Also, they have emotional X-ray vision: they can read non-verbal signals more precisely, including tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.”

Prepare for a Longer Sales Process: You better know your stuff when dealing with women. They ask more questions than men. They also like to comparison shop. Additionally, they often don’t make an immediate purchase decision. So, contrary to ages-old sales practices, be prepared to focus more on education and follow-up with female customers than closing a sale on the spot.

Initiate a Meaningful Conversation: This means getting to know your customer and identifying their level of knowledge, skill, physical ability and reasons for purchasing a gun.

“If a woman walks in asking for a particular gun, find out why she wants that firearm,” Tracy urges. “Often, they’re in the shop to get a gun someone told them they should have. Get past the want or influence of others to identify the real need. Also be ready to steer a woman away from a gun she may not be equipped to use to one that fulfills her individual needs.”

Also be prepared with answers. Barletta admits women ask a lot of questions and take longer to make a buying decision. “It’s not because they are fickle or can’t make up their minds,” she says. “It’s because women have a different decision-making process from men.

“Men would rather buy a workable product than continue to shop, while women would rather continue to shop in the hope of finding a perfect solution. In other words, women are more selective and more likely to buy a product that fits all their requirements, not just their top-level need.”

Overcome the Fear Factor: The onslaught of first-time gun buyers finds shops dealing with folks who have concerns about gun ownership and safety. Listen to those concerns, offer well-reasoned and factual responses, and be ready to provide resources women can use to become educated and skilled gun owners.

When a customer shares a fear like, “I’m worried about having a gun at home with my kids,” be ready to offer sage advice, rather than wipe the question aside or offer a flippant answer. The latter will cost you a customer.

Consider pulling together a new gun owners’ information packet for first-time buyers — one for men and one for women. Also connect your customers with groups that offer educational classes, camaraderie and support.

Employ the Sister/Mother Rule: Treat your customers as you would your sister or mother. Doing so means showing a genuine level of interest. Show you care and that you’re interested in her opinions or concerns. Hear her and guide her. Business is built on relationships. Sow the seeds.

Suggest Professional (Not Significant Other) Training: Many women are left to learn their firearms skills from their spouse or significant other. The result is often tension or, worse, bad experiences. Offer a solution. “Partner with instructors, even beyond those you might employ, so you’re able to provide viable training recommendations,” Skipalis suggests. “Know the instructors/programs and their areas of expertise, so you can provide gals with insight into the trainer/program and make them feel comfortable about taking training.”

Hire More Women: There’s no doubt people like to do business and learn from folks who understand them. A female behind the counter goes a long way toward offering women an island, someone like them to turn to, in what might be an intimidating situation. Additionally, interacting with women who are knowledgeable, skilled firearms owners builds customer confidence and allows female customers to see their potential in your sales rep.

Forego a Sale: Yes, you’re in the business of selling guns, but sometimes you should step back. Women respect honesty and the offering of additional solutions. “I’ve told plenty of customers, and numerous women, not to buy a gun at all,” Tracy admits. “I might recommend pepper spray or a stun gun when I identify factors that indicate the customer’s ability to handle the stress of a tactical situation, process the situation and make immediate decisions is compromised.”

Tracy isn’t saying women aren’t capable. She’s saying one solution is not viable for everyone. Where a man might react negatively to stepping back, women are often grateful to have options.

Because you listened to your customer and developed a solution for her, she will most likely come back to you for advice and options. In addition, if you’re able to get her some protection (pepper spray or stun gun) while opening the door to some basic, pre-purchase, firearms training, so she can test the waters before buying, she just might become a new firearms customer, too.

Stock Women’s Products: Being able to offer women accessory and carry options is key to rounding out sales and letting female customers know you have what they need. For instance, offer a carry choice other than a hip holster (remember, we’re curvy), a selection of concealed carry bags, and yes, even pink guns. “Lots of women, usually skilled gun owners, shy away from products like pink guns that seem, to them, like blatant marketing ploys.” Skipalis admits. “However, if a pink or purple gun might catch someone’s eye and draw their interest, I’m all for it. The more we can show women they are welcome, the better.”


Summing up, the three keys to working with women are making them feel comfortable, understanding their needs and buying habits, and eliminating the, “Oh, sweetie,” comments as well as the poster of the scantily clad woman with the AR that’s hanging behind the register.



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