Create a Buying Atmosphere in Your Gun Shop

Is your sporting goods store inviting customers or turning them away? Here's how you get shoppers in the mood to spend.

Create a Buying Atmosphere in Your Gun Shop

An interesting quote related to customers best sums up a positive shopping atmosphere: “Whoever said that money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.” While your product mix, prices and location help you serve customers and make a profit, so does the atmosphere in and around your retail center once customers arrive. Putting customers in a positive and upbeat mood means more sales and more dollars into your till. Are you creating a profitable buying atmosphere?

There are many things you can do to stimulate customer’s senses and  create a buying atmosphere. Creating the right mix of merchandise displays and atmosphere — including upbeat visual and audio stimuli — influences customers and sets their mood. Often the mood of shoppers begins in the parking lot or at your front door. Once inside, your dazzling displays, eye-catching merchandise, and other sights and sounds they experience in the aisles help set the mood with customers.


Grab Their Attention

While simple product displays that depict a SWAT team member holding an AR often grab visual attention and can motivate customers, other layouts and displays can also bring up images in the customer’s mind of their favorite shooting activities and pastimes. Strive to create displays that encourage the viewer to mentally place themselves into that setting. It pays to be creative and work to make displays that deliver a huge wow factor. Customers are influenced by what they see, so grab their attention.

When possible, stimulate customers through more than one receptor channel. One method is to utilize those looped product videos showing famous pro shooters — or your store staff — talking about and using a wide range of products. Those grab attention via visual and audio senses.  Many manufacturers provide those looped films and the video player free or at co-op pricing if you ask. When using videos, try several things in various locations to set the right in-store atmosphere and get customers watching or talking. 

Another top visual influencer is the motivational or product branding posters and displays offered from numerous manufacturers. Note that many manufacturers will provide these free or at minimal costs. Ask also about posters of their professional shooters. Posters, photos and promotional materials with noted icons, like world-record speed shooter Jerry Miculek or Winchester Ammunition’s representative and Olympic gold medal winner Kim Rhode for example, catch peoples’ attention and can spur sales. If the poster, image, product display or video gets customers excitedly talking, you are on the right track.

Shopping customers encounter many things inside your store that encourage them to pay attention while also influencing them to open their wallets to make purchases. Need proof of how the surroundings in a retail environment motivate and influence customers? Have you ever been in the grocery store and notice that when you walk around an end-cap, someone on a small TV screen starts talking to you about a product? Yes, they are talking to you, in case you were wondering. Those grab attention.

In most retail establishments, there are tables and bins full of sale and reduced-price items placed at or near the entrance. Those quickly noticed on-sale items grab attention and help set the mood with shoppers. Everyone loves a bargain, and those items spur shopping activity. It’s important to note the human senses are bombarded with millions of stimuli each day, whether those are heard, seen, sniffed or felt. Pushing the senses of customers is often part of a strong sales program — or should be. Are you touching your shoppers’ stimuli points and grabbing their attention?


Your Influencers, Your Customers

There are other ways to influence customers, including creating your own motivators and influencers. One easy route is to hire a professional photographer to cover any events, training sessions or seminars your store holds — or sponsors — and turn their top images into posters or promotional items. These images can have customers talking and can bring back good memories for attendees or those who wanted to attend. To create your own poster and large-format framed prints, you can download, send and inexpensively order posters (framed or on foamboard backing) online from several sources. Again, visuals can spur shoppers to make last-minute purchases when they spot stimuli inside your store that subliminally remind them of something they like participating in or have always wanted to try. Place those posters and framed prints in key places that catch attention. 

Subtle scents and smells are also great for creating a positive shopping atmosphere. Yes, there are Hoppe’s No. 9 air fresheners available that your customers will recognize. Smell is one of the most motivating human senses, and a pleasant smell, such as a safely burning candle wafting cinnamon, vanilla or apple pie scents, can put customers at ease and in a positive mood. On the other hand, however, note that unpleasant scents, such as stale food odors in a garbage can at the front door, can turn the customers’ mood down dramatically. Be alert to scents around your shop.

Subtle sounds, such as soft background music, are another easy avenue to place shoppers in a good mood. Classical music or popular tunes influence moods when softly broadcast. If tunes are too loud and overwhelming, however, the blare stresses customers. Recent studies have found that the head-banging hard rock and rap music that teenagers blare from their cars is not pleasing with shoppers in a closed environment. Not only is your choice of background music important, but the decibel level it is broadcast at matters, too. If customers have to shout to communicate with each other or your sales staff, the volume is obviously too loud.

Other strong visual influencers include attention-grabbing posters and colorful banners and flags showing popular brands like the red Ruger eagle or the Browning Buckmark. These strong visuals let shoppers know they are in a firearms-friendly environment — and they can generally relax. Creating the right environment throughout the store can also be accomplished with the right colors. The colors on your walls and in the carpet or flooring definitely influences customers. White, light blue and light tan/cream are neutral colors that help customers relax, while soft yellow alerts shoppers and awakens them a degree. Purple is seen as an upscale and honorable color. Black means power and red means danger in the minds of most shoppers. Several top tactical retail stores in America successfully use black and red wall colors in their lobby and hallways. Note that you should generally use softer shades of all colors on walls, columns and other interior areas or you risk overwhelming customers’ senses and depressing the shopping atmosphere. Note also that darker colors can make your interior space seem smaller and can make it more difficult for customers to see merchandise and read price tags.

Customers also like cleanliness. Remember to regularly clean the floors, walls, merchandise on shelves, bathrooms and counter tops — and all the corners — with care and attention to detail. Shoppers who see dust or smudges on glass surfaces and cabinets subliminally begin to think you are not careful with cleaning or paying attention to other details. This unkempt appearance in your store raises concerns about your business and the products you sell. The same goes for broken registers, wall thermostats with duct tape holding the clear protective cover in place, or noisy air conditioners or heating systems. These sights and sounds distract customers and provide a less-than-positive impression.


Warm Smiles Set the Mood

Want to know one of the most powerful mood setters and influencers in retailing? A genuine and warm smile. You and your staff set the mood level — or can turn it up many notches — with a genuine warm smile and upbeat personality. Work to move beyond mundane comments about the weather and discuss shooting industry insider info, new calibers coming to market and exciting firearms you’ve read about or accessories that have just arrived in your store. When possible, mention upcoming events you host or will sponsor in the region. These topics and the personal conversation can make the customer feel valued and put them at ease. Unhurried and relaxed customers tend to open their wallets wider.

Your employees influence customers. Discuss smiling and positive customer engagement with your staff on a regular basis. Any employee who frequently scowls or seems negative or down on the world might best be placed in the stockroom or assigned duties other than greeting and serving customers. It’s your call, but it’s an important one, because some negative people cannot be coached into a positive outlook.

Setting the right mood and positive buying atmosphere in your business with customers has another big benefit. Customers remember a positive and pleasant shopping experience and stimulating sounds and surroundings — and they frequently return because of the great experience. A pleasant and positive shopping atmosphere has become more important with customers in today’s uncertain shopping world. More and more customers want to leave their home and see, feel and touch items to have their moods changed. They look for positive influencers to help them escape all the negative broadcast news and the down-beaten world around them. In-person shopping has become a new cure for cabin fever and depression.


Setups for Self-Shoppers

One other way to better serve customers is to aid them in easily finding lesser-priced, nonessential items, like the discretionary goods related to firearms and target shooting. Purchases in these categories often provide customers with instant gratification. Those spur-of-the-moment or extraneous purchases are another major motivator with shoppers and something that can move your brick-and-mortar store ahead of online sources where customers must wait for delivery and gratification.

It’s a well-documented fact that shoppers often purchase self-treats to improve their mood. In tactical stores, these purchases could include numerous less-than-$100 items like flashlights, ear muffs, a compact range bag, T-shirts, decals, manufacturer flags and banners, and other nonessential common items. Shoppers tend to make these unplanned spur-of-the-moment purchases to improve their mood or reward themselves. Note items you offer in those categories and get them out to be easily grabbed and dropped into the cart. It’s the reason nearly every checkout aisle in major grocery stores has candy and chewing gum, plus earphones and other inexpensive electronics items, on each side of the cart aisles. This encourages shoppers to reward themselves and capture those profit-producing spur-of-the-moment sales. The checkout area or on top of the counter by the register are top places for this type of grab-n-go merchandise where customers buy because they saw.

There are numerous things you can do to influence shoppers and create an upbeat buying atmosphere. Reach customers through their senses and make your register ring.


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