Business Tip: How To Improve Your Business Barometer

Want to make more money in the days ahead? If you are a business owner, that’s a null question. Of course, the answer is a strong and loud, yes!

Business Tip: How To Improve Your Business Barometer

Want to make more money in the days ahead? If you are a business owner, that’s a null question. Of course, the answer is a strong and loud, YES!

There are successful business strategies you can implement, and proven ways to get ahead of your local and regional competitors if you follow the clues. While you help your customers, you can also help yourself and your business as you improve sales, cash flow and profits. A big part of the plan is to study the things that influence your business and your bottom line. The barometers you should focus on are the industry, your market, your customers and your dollars.

Industry Trend Insights

In recent times, some industry sources — and the oft incorrect mass media — are reporting all firearm sales are soft, especially for the MSR (modern sporting rifle) or AR rifle platforms. But insider info seems to note that more folks are building their own MSR rifles or making key upgrades, and all those strong firearms sales over the past decade means there are many pistols, rifles and shotguns out there in private ownership that are awaiting accessories. Those new firearms sales made in the recent industry heyday (before 2017) often resulted in a firearm, box of ammunition and mostly eye and ear protection going into the hands of the buyer. That’s the basic starter kit for a firearm owner.

Moving beyond those buyer’s basics, those customers have now put dollars back in their wallets, have shot and become familiar with the firearms they purchased and now could be ready to return and make additional purchases. Think accessories, safes, hard and soft gun cases, shooting gloves or clothing, upgraded cleaning kits, better ammunition, more magazines and such. You can also think about more appealing directly-on-the-firearm upgrades such as new stocks, forends, grips, riflescopes and sights, laser sights, slings, tactical lights and such. Many new firearm owners like to buy additional magazines so there is more range practice time based on shooting and less spent on refilling magazines. Remember also, and relay to the sales team, that accessories normally have a higher profit margin than firearms — a much higher profit margin.

Successful strategies include offering and assembling upgrade packages for the top firearms you have sold in recent years. You know those top brands and favored firearms such as the Smith & Wesson Shield, Sig Sauer P365, Ruger LCP and others. Make the kits and upgrades for those firearms noticeable when customers come through the door and catch their interest early. If you bury the upgrades in the back of your store or on a wall behind a counter, you could miss out on both opportunities and dollars.

Remember also to stock up on accessories for firearms that are selling well now, and bring up the discussion with customers when they buy a firearm. Plant the seed about upgrades and let them know what is available. Don’t be pushy, however, or this unwanted pressure can push some customers away. It’s a fine line between education for the customer and a hard drive push to sell more.

Know Thy Customers

Quick, do you know the approximate age of the last person who came through your front door, or wish to guess the age of the next customer coming in? These numbers are critical. Older customers with years of shooting experience or failing hearing and eyesight have much different needs (or wants) than your recent 21-year-old first time gun buyer. Learn their wants and needs and serve those.

Another key is to have your sales team remember that the number of females owning firearms has increased dramatically in the past decade. Communicating with them, and listening to them, and then serving their needs as a new shooter or firearm(s) owner can go a long way toward building a key customer relation. It’s a known fact that if a male purchased a female customer her first firearm, then she is more than likely ready to upgrade.

Many of those female customers received small pocket pistols (cute guns) as the first gift gun, but as they increase their shooting and firearms experience, they discover larger (more serious) firearms such as the Shield in 9mm, Glock 17, Remington R51 or maybe a Ruger LC9, can better meet their needs — and fit their hands. You can reach this customer group by running upgrade specials that reward trade-ins by customers on firearms that were purchased earlier from your business. A sales receipt would verify that purchase if you don’t remember.

Know also that recent attacks, riots or shootings, even the shootings that the mass media spends hours reporting on, can drive customers to think more about personal safety and the safety of their family members. Don’t discuss the unfortunate events, but do provide firearms and self-defense accessories and make them noticeable within your business. While handguns are often the choice for your customers as they move in public, note that home defense shotguns are a top choice once they are inside their home. The popularity of the Mossberg Shockwave and Remington Tac-13 firearms have well proven that mindset and preparedness choice. Home defense-focused displays that reveal those firearms, plus the available accessories and tailored shotshells, to customers move you closer to making a sale — and satisfying a customer.

If customers enter your business, however, and have to hunt for products such as home defense shotguns, you could be missing sales opportunities. While some customers do like to window shop and walk in and look, many others are pressed for time in today’s hectic world. Grabbing those customers’ attention at the front of the store and meeting their needs within the first few minutes after they cross the threshold improves your chance for a sale.

Master Your Market

An important but often overlooked part of serving customers and making sales is the local market. This includes your competition, the opening of a new range or sporting clays course in the region, layoffs at factories or the opening of a mega employer such as a new car assembly plant. All those losses and gains can impact the wallets of your customers, the dollars that pass through those customers’ wallets and the dollars that move into your cash register.

If you know about your customer base, you know where they work. They sometimes state details on other businesses where they shop. You see hats and shirts with logos and other clues that can help you understand their lifestyle, shopping choices and other parts of their lives that can govern the category of customer they are — or could become. Increases in taxes, natural disasters including floods or fires and a host of problems that can only be solved through spending, can impact your customer base and their discretionary income. Stay alert and anticipate these problems — and opportunities. Local newspaper business sections and reports by the chamber of commerce or local economic development council can provide valuable insight — so can recent industry reports.

It’s also keen business to understand seasonal differences. As dove and deer openers approach, ammunition, riflescopes, gun cases and anything in camo becomes more noticeable and appealing to customers. And yes, hunters can hunt with MSR rifles. And on the other side of that coin, Memorial Day can be a difficult time to try and sell a deer rifle — unless you cut deep and try to move discontinued models. And when it comes to dollars on the move, remember that the end of February through mid-May means income tax returns and refunds. Many customers spend those dollars on wants, and not needs, unless the need is more dominant. 

You can learn more about pending changes in the local economy by staying alert to customer comments about business openings and closings, frequently reading the business sections in local magazines and newspapers and by carefully studying any chamber of commerce reports on business and plant openings and closings. Consider the numbers, their impacts and plan accordingly. A portion of each workweek should be spent doing research on your economy and your customers.

Grow Your Customer Base

The best news for the shooting sports industry and your store are the ongoing recruitment efforts. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has several recruitment programs that are achieving results and growing participant numbers. The better news is that many of those programs such as First Shots and the recently unveiled Plus One effort, can be recruitment tools you can easily participate in. Those programs often provide free promotional materials, ideas and other support to achieve results. 

Better news is that new customers feel a degree of loyalty to the business that introduced them to a shooting discipline. Those customers become more frequent shoppers as they increase their participation level and interest. 

The business barometer is always rising or falling. Staying aware of the local economy, your market and your customer base can make monitoring your dollars much easier.


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