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Posted: 5/29/2002 10:32:21 AM EDT
Having read some recent comments on FFLs and gunshop owners I thought I would give some valuable advice to gun store owners from a customer perspective. Gun stores, as a whole, are the worst class of businesses I have ever patronized. 1. Keep the place clean and organized. 2. Get rid of the introverted gun geeks and get some people who know how to listen and how to sell. 3. Get some people who keep up professionally and actualy know what they are talking about. Teach them to say "I don't know, but I'll find out for you" when they don't know. 4. Put the ammo where it can be seen without leaning over the counter or having to ask someone. Maybe a locking glass case or something on the floor. Perhaps just a display with one of each type of ammo (or at least an empty box). 5. Put up an information center with flyers listing local ranges, shooting events, gun safety, instruction, and information on various calibers and ammunition. Assume the person walking in the door knows nothing. Post information about the NRA and membership. 6. Slim down your offerings to best of breed at various price points. Analyze what is popular and selling and get rid of slow movers and fringe calibers. 7. Carry a full line of accessories - OPTICS, slings, cleaning gear, holsters, targets and ORGANIZE and MERCHANDISE it properly. 8. Employ a smith and highlight all the services they provide. Put them on display, not in the back room. 9. Talk to your customers. 10. Emphasize selling solutions - weapons, optics, sling/holster, cleaning supplies. 11. Put some money back in the business. 12. Don't assume you know it all - take some seminars on running a business. Your business is just that - a business. Treat it as such and you will prosper.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 10:40:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 5/29/2002 10:45:35 AM EDT by shooter69]
Stop making sense! Of all the kinds of businesses I've dealt with... let's just say I agree with you.
4. Put the ammo where it can be seen without leaning over the counter or having to ask someone.
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Funny, with one of my local dealers I have to stretch over the boxes of ammo just to lean on the counter! [:D] (They also use these boxes of ammo (seperating the customers and the counter) to place guns on for inspection...)
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 10:51:55 AM EDT
You haven't been to a French resturant lately, I take it [:P] Sarcasm aside...Around where I am (Orange/Rockland Counties, NY), gun stores started as a guy's (or woman's) hobby shop and basically grew up around that premise. They're not advertised except by word-of-mouth. They're *expected* to be small holes in the wall, and most of the customers are *expected* to know a little more about weapons than "this is the end that goes boom". Admittidly, the selections of accessories and gear is kind of lame (tactical sling? HA!) in most places around here, but *shrug* Of the gun stores I know in the area by where I am, one was much like you asked for. The people at the counters were for the most part knowledgable. Their gunsmith was out and about, and seemed to not be an idiot. (Finding a gunsmith who knows his stuff is hard around here ;) ) They had people there who knew about archery/bows, rifles, handguns, airguns, paintball guns, what have you. They even had an indoor 100 yard range. It was a good place, business-wise. (It was even clean!). They went out of business. The other hole-in-the-wall shop about 2 miles away...poor lighting, no gunsmith, no range, only a couple people there. It's run basically as a hobby to the guy who runs it; he just enjoys doing it. He has a huge selection of hunting, target, varmint rifles, shotguns, and a decent wall of "assault" rifles, pre- and post-ban. They've been around forever and they're not going away anytime soon. There's another sporting goods store that stocks rifles, shotguns, and handguns...they don't have much of an "assault" rifle selection, though, and to be honest, staring at racks of bolt-action rifles just dosen't do it for me, so I don't spend much time there unless I need supplies :) They DO have a much larger selection of cleaning and shooting supplies than most any other place I've ever been to around here, which is nice. They're a full-fledged sportsman's shop; bait, tackle, hunting stuff, the whole thing. It's more than just how the place looks or if the people inside have clue or not. It's got a lot to do with how it's run, too...if it's being run like the guy who runs it has a passion about the place (or at least enjoys it), or if he's just trying to turn a buck. I think what turned it for me was when I bought an Aug a couple months ago. I had it sent to that hole-in-the-wall place, and I signed for it there. The owner of the joint, older guy...say mid-60's, perhaps older. He saw me take the Aug out of the box and check it over, and he was in HEAVEN. He loved the thing, said he wished he never sold his. He was jealous, and the guy OWNED THE STORE! That's a place I'll gladly bring my business to. So, IMO...a Wal-Mart like atmosphere is nice for general stores, but for a gunstore? Not sure it works real well... I WILL agree on the knowledgable help bit, tho. It'd be nice if I could walk into a place, pick up a Colt AR15, ask the guy behind the counter if it has a sear block in it...and not get stared at like I just grew a third eye... (If this post seems overly long, sorry. I'm diligently avoiding work as I type. The more the merrier...)
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:10:09 AM EDT
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:11:47 AM EDT
Most of the shops around my area are good with customers and show some semblance of professionalism. There are a few however, that are still run like "hobby shack - good ol' boy farthole - hunting lodge - drinking buddy" gathering spots. I left one shop after seeing their exorbitant prices and being almost completely ignored for at least five minutes. The counter guy was filling-out some magazine coupon thing and didn't even look up when I asked him a question. The conclusion was that they really don't want to actually sell anything or cultivate any business. Instead, they were staffing a firearms museum! Elmer, you're right - a little professionalism goes a long way in any business.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:13:25 AM EDT
Originally Posted By SWS: I left one shop after seeing their exorbitant prices and being almost completely ignored for at least five minutes. The counter guy was filling-out some magazine coupon thing and didn't even look up when I asked him a question. The conclusion was that they really don't want to actually sell anything or cultivate any business. Instead, they were staffing a firearms museum!
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And here I was thinking it was just me.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:15:27 AM EDT
I went to Galyans a few days ago, and wanted to see what their ammo offerings were in .223. Well there was only one clerk at the gun counter, and he was busily trying to sell a Mini-14 to some guy. This guy looked like he could afford better, but I kept my mouth shut. All I was there for was to browse the ammo selection. They keep their stupid ammo shelf about 15 feet behind the counter, and stack the stuff about 10 feet high! Whereas the shot gun ammo is free for the picking. I have not figured out why I have to beg to see a box of 30-30, but can grab saboted slugs by the armload and walk all around the store. It isn't a state law either, Gander Mtn. is much better, as is Farm and Fleet. Anyway, after about 5 minutes of waiting for the sales job to end, and squinting over the counter to the ammo shelf, I walked over to the optics area, grabbed a telescope ad Viola! I could now read every box on the shelf! From about 80-90 feet away! Remember this trick. Were it not for Bushnell & Tasco, I might still be waiting behind the counter today.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:23:01 AM EDT
Originally Posted By shooter69: Stop making sense! Of all the kinds of businesses I've dealt with... let's just say I agree with you.
4. Put the ammo where it can be seen without leaning over the counter or having to ask someone.
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Funny, with one of my local dealers I have to stretch over the boxes of ammo just to lean on the counter! [:D] (They also use these boxes of ammo (seperating the customers and the counter) to place guns on for inspection...)
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I just walk behind the counter and grab what I want. I suggest that you know your FFL fairly well before you try this.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:38:53 AM EDT
People wonder why shooting and firearms ownership are stagnant or shrinking. It's no surprise - poor marketing from gun stores all the way to the manufacturers. And that includes an inefficient production and distribution system from the manufacturers. I've been trying to buy a Win Model 70 Stealth in .308 since last fall. The factory last produced them in April 2001. They are supposedly in production or will be going into production shortly, but will not be available til Sep/Oct per the factory. Un-freakin'- real!. This is a variant of one of the two most popular bolt action actions in the U.S. It sounds like modern manufacturing systems have totally bypassed this industry - JIT, SPC, computerized scheduling, pull vs push distribution, etc. Unbelievable. Guns are the perfect manufactured goods to implement these modern techniques - an assembly of (relatively) simple machined metal parts. Its really not that hard. Except when you shoot yourselves in both feet.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:41:14 AM EDT
Well given that 75% of my business is repeat customers who know me by name I can't blow them off as successfully as some dealers can. And most of my new customers are "by appointment" so kinda hard to ignore them too.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:54:08 AM EDT
Out of about 5 gunshops in the central to northwest Phoenix/Scottsdale area I frequent, only 2 of the 5 exhibit the aloof/arrogant-type attitude. The only reason I go there is for ammo, which they seem to have halfway decent prices on. (OK, I'll admit, one of the two has a really awesome chick that works the cash register-worth an extra .20/box ammo for the trip [devil]) The other 3 are really down-to-earth, friendly and helpful. I patronize them faithfully when a firearms purchase is imminent. There's a reason why they get my business. It's about time to start shopping around for that '06 I need.... [sniper]
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 2:35:58 PM EDT
My gun store would be [;)]non-profit and tax free......[;)]that way I'd be around selling guns forever!
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 2:51:48 PM EDT
Originally Posted By ElmerFudd: 5. Put up an information center with flyers listing local ranges, shooting events, gun safety, instruction, and information on various calibers and ammunition. [red]Assume the person walking in the door knows nothing.[/red] Post information about the NRA and membership.
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Gunshops are the ONLY places that do not do this. You go into any other retail shop (not big dept stores/walmart) and people want to tell you about and sell you everything under then sun. At all the gunshops I've been to it seems like you are pulling teeth when tring to get info.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 2:53:12 PM EDT
11. Put some money back in the business.
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The local gunshop owner around here rather put the the money he makes at the store into cigarettes and fast food instead of having a reasonable amount of merchandise on hand.If I had a store I'd put the money I made back into the store and have it packed with a wide assortment of firearms and ammo. Seems like whenever I go to the local Gunshop and I need something, its never there and needs to be ordered. I tell the owner to order the things I want for me,then go back a week later and he forgot to write my order down. Happens time and again. Its the only Gunshop in my town or I'd go elsewhere.[:(!]
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 10:13:58 PM EDT
I really it when the store owner would rather blab to the store groupies that just hang around to b.s. than try to help a customer. There used to be a shop around here that had even had chairs for the groupies to sit in and block the view of the gun displays. Really good customer service, NOT. The place went under in less than a year. Good riddance.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 10:33:01 PM EDT
Well, depending on where you're at, gun stores aren't the most lucrative businesses. The prices of large bulk dealers on the internet or SGN are hard to beat for the local gunstore, even after shipping prices. I get the feeling that most guys start gun stores because they love guns, not because they want to run a retail store.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 10:51:22 PM EDT
ElmerFudd, good list, but I think if you go in any specialty shop, you'll have many of the same complaints. The reason someone opens, for example a model train store or baseball card shop, is because that's what they're interested in. The business part is just an unpleasant necessity. > flyers listing local ranges Agree with that! I've asked every employee at every single local store I've been to where to shoot. More often than not, I just get a dumb look. The other times, they've mentioned a local state-operated range. Well it is watched every minute is open by a LEO, so it isn't a pleasant place to shoot. I still haven't found anywhere to shoot within 100 miles of my house. I'm still wondering where all of the local gun shop owners and employees shoot. They sure don't share that info, and I'm still looking. I've also seen several people ask the same question and get a negative answer. How do you expect to sell a gun to someone when you can't even tell them where they can shoot it when they ask? > fringe calibers. That's one reason to go to a gun shop rather than a Mart. You're more likely to find something that isn't a 30-30 lever action, 30-06 bolt, or a 22LR semi. Also, you don't have to compete with a Mart's price if it's not something they have in stock. > Put them [smith services] on display Agreed! I've never seen those listed in any shop I've been in. A, for example, "we don't work on military rifles" sign would be nice. I've gotten that response from three smiths in this state, and it would have been more pleasant if that was posted rather than having to ask.
It sounds like modern manufacturing systems have totally bypassed this industry - JIT, SPC, computerized scheduling, pull vs push distribution, etc. Unbelievable.
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Maybe that is the problem. I've worked in both types of manufacturing environments, and have seen tighter controls on production (to reduce inventory) screw-up much more than it has helped. With JIT, you can screw-up much faster and take longer to fix the problem. The old way was to build many, keep them in inventory, and use them for the next few months as you need them. If demand exceeds expectation, you have a long warning and can correct it. With a company I worked for that made rugs, we literally put ourselves out of business because of JIT. An order would come-in, we'd buy the yarn from a place across town, program/setup the loom, make the rug, box it, and ship it in the same day. Yes we had zero inventory costs, but when something happened to a loom, our shipping, yarn supply, SGI server that sent-out the patterns, etc., we weren't able to ship. With the old way, we'd have a few hundred rugs in stock of each pattern so that we would have a buffer if something happened. According to someone I talked to at Marlin, their broken new JIT stocking procedures are why they are months behind on filling some H&R orders. They didn't schedule barrel production until the last minute, so when they hit a snag, they end-up delaying customer orders.z
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:20:46 PM EDT
Zoom - good comments on manufacturing, but, having managed a large plant, the problems with JIT and associated techniques always boil down to the people using it. Inaccurate inventories and either wrong lead times or poor forecasts plugged into the system cause failure. It requires a new mindset to make this stuff work. Rifles are perfect for these techniques - a few basic designs with a limited number of variations, lots of historical demand data, and a relatively small amount of raw materials. If Marlin can't make new manufacturing techniques work it is probably a lack of training and commitment to the process, both by management and employees. I've been there - trying to make the change on the cheap usually does not work. Gun stores need to work the one angle they have over mail order/internet and Wal-Mart. CUSTOMER SERVICE. I just bought a Marlin 60SSK .22LR from a local shop. They got it in 2 days. Tried to special order it from Wally World. It was not in their catalog and would have taken weeks if it was. And I buy cleaning supplies there because they carry a full line of quality items. And their handgun ammo is out in the open. The other local shop is a disaster in comparison - lots of bubbas hanging and the place is a disorganized mess.
Link Posted: 5/29/2002 11:59:13 PM EDT
I agree with customer service... when I go somewhere I expect the person there to answer every question Ive got and be asking me if there is anything else they can do for me. the only gun store In the town I live in does just that... you walk in and they ask you what your looking for and are right there waiting to help you find what you need. They are more hunting and fishing orented but I think thats because thats what sells in this area. I also recently saw a bushmaster advertisment taped to the counter though Last time someone order something from there they had it in 3 days. had it ready to go and every thing to gether so you could sign the forms and be gone. Also If all you have is a question theyll answer it. theyve been there a long time and I think thats why. I was in there one time tho and a guy brought in a loaded gun to be bore sighted. I was watching him check the gun and there was one in the chamber I damn near ducked behind the shelf! he was fairly calm but he got a real talking to.
Link Posted: 5/30/2002 12:24:36 AM EDT
Where I live the local hole in the wall with the smelly dog, "if it ain't a single shot it ain't shit" counterman, overpriced, no selection gun store / range will be making some serious cash in about 5-20 years when all the stock on the shelves becomes old enough to sell on-line - that is if they even know what a computer is. The Ace Hardware store also sells guns and ammo, a little - well a lot overpriced on guns and accessories - unless you are a bird shooter, stocked with the popular social rounds "no, it's not 5.56, it's .223". The counter help runs the gammet from 16 year old high schoolers "Dat Glock be da Bomb, load it up wit da bling-bling ammo" to the anti-gunner liberal flamer who runs the paint department "no, I will not let you look at the guns, that's not my job, besides, just think of all the children you could feed...bla bla bla" to the manager and owner "you want me to sell it to you for 10% under cost (which is still 10% more than Wally-World sells it for), heck, what are you trying to do, rob me blind?" The worst part? The local Wally World has two guys working the gun counter who both used to work for both of the above mentioned stores and they know more about the guns that Wally World sells and the ones that Wally World dosen't sell than the people who work at the gun stores themselves. Of course they just feed the big gun store that is about a 60 mile round trip from here, the one where the selection is great, the people know what they sell and there are customers 3 deep waiting to spend money.
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