Could 2015 by the Year of the Airgun? It could be your year for airgun sales and profits — if you do it right.
“Profit margins for airguns are definitely higher than firearms,” says John Lewis, gun department manager for Herb Bauer Sporting Goods in Fresno, California. Whereas firearms usually bring in a 10 to 13 percent profit margin, “It’s 35 to 40 percent on the airguns we sell. And all pellets and other accessories for airguns are a keystone mark — 50 percent profit margin for us.”
Bauer normally stocks a nice variety of RWS Diana 34, 48 and 52 rifles, as well as what Lewis calls “old school” Benjamin 392 and 397 pneumatic pump rifles. At the same time, Lewis notes he is in the process of “teching-up” his line by delving into bigger-bore units (.25 caliber and up) that employ pre-charged air tanks, like the models made by AirForce.
Miles Hall, co-owner of H&H Shooting Sports in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, concurs with Lewis: Airgun profit margins are essentially double that of firearms, and accessories come in at the 40 percent to 50 percent mark.
Due to growing airgun popularity, Hall’s establishment is in the process of revamping its airgun sales space, adding more counters and display cases to create a formal Airgun Department. The facility is also dedicating several of the H&H indoor shooting range lanes to strictly airgun use so potential customers can try before they buy.
Who Is Buying?
Airgun customers will depend on location, state and local guns laws and a host of other variables. But generally speaking, the airgun demographic is spread out over several specific buyers.
“By far, the most common reason people are here for an air rifle is nuisance pest control,” says Tom Simmon, a buyer for Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare, Michigan. “They have pests causing damage to their homes or property, and they either can’t or really don’t want to use a .22LR or a shotgun. And maybe they are concerned about being too close to neighbors.”
Pest controllers like break-action, single-shot air rifles, Simmon adds. These rifles tend to fire pellets at higher feet per second rates than lever actions and even pneumatic pump varieties; they are very accurate, too, so they can dispatch pesky wildlife efficiently.
And they’re not just used for pests. Jay’s is selling a growing number of air rifles to small-game hunters too.
At Crosman Corporation, one of the country’s top airgun manufacturers, marketing manager Chip Hunnicutt says his distributors and dealers tell him their top customers are parents buying airguns as a child’s first gun.
“They’re either not comfortable with firearms or feel their child isn’t quite ready for one,” says Hunnicutt. “So they look to airguns, which have the benefits of a lower range, less noise, low maintenance and plentiful, inexpensive ammunition. With the airgun, they can instill firearms safety in the child before they actually use a firearm.”
And of course, backyard plinkers and recreational shooters buy their share of airguns, too.
The time of the year can influences sales as well. Dani Navikas, Airguns Product Manager for the Remington Outdoor Company, says her retailers tend to focus on the following seasonal themes:
- Early Spring — Varmint season and indoor/outdoor range use
- Summer — Indoor/outdoor range use
- Fall — Hunting
- Winter — Hunting and indoor/outdoor range use
“All airgun products sell during each season,” she adds. “But our retailers have found that these seasonal themes tend to be the best promotional focus during those time periods. They choose the products to feature based on those themes, as well as their marketing and in-store sales.”
The Specialty Approach
“I think you need to approach airguns a lot like you do archery — a specialty area of interest,” Hall adds. “You can’t just put some boxes on a shelf and hope they sell. Some of the air rifles we stock cost $900. For that kind of money, consumers want to know what they are getting, and they want to hear from someone who knows what he or she is talking about.”
As with any specialty area, staff education is key to moving airguns.
For its participating retailers, Remington Outdoor Company, for example, has created 3point5 computer-based training modules to help develop each sales person’s knowledge of the category and enable them to discuss product features and specs like an expert.
“Remington Outdoor Company also has a team of Retail Sales Specialists that can help with airgun product selection, display setup, marketing and special events, and a Field Sales Training team that can assist with staff education,” says Navikas.
Staff time with airguns at the range and afield will be a big help in knowing airgun performance and applications, so staff can better match up customer needs with the right guns.
“New dealers of airguns must be able to provide a variety of calibers as we do — .177, .20, .22 and .25 caliber and a variable selection to hit all the price points,” Lewis advises. “From least expensive to most expensive. Service is another consideration. We are lucky to have a local Crosman service repair guy in our town. Customers feel a lot better knowing they can get the airgun fixed locally and not have to send them off for repairs.”
Displays And More
“The air rifle makers we work with provide all sorts of different display options, and I’d recommend that a newcomer to this market get and use some of those displays,” says Simmon. “These displays draw attention to the products, and you can really fit a lot of product into one of those setups. You can get some really good profits out of a relatively small sales space this way.”
For its airgun lines, Remington has custom designed eye-catching, four-color packaging and offers its retailers a free-standing air rifle display to draw in the consumer.
The products are there, the help is there and the demand is growing. With some planning, airguns and accessories could be a solid addition to your bottom line.