Commentary by Frank Brownell
Des Moines, Iowa – -(Ammoland.com)- The Brownells gang just returned from the 2012 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. It was a very successful – and a very hectic – event.
Our industry appears to be very strong right now, and the pace at the show almost felt “frantic.”
We picked up on five trends that we think you’ll want to keep in mind to stay ahead this year.
Ammunition — All calibers. Most of the ammunition manufacturers out there wrote business way in excess of last year’s SHOT Show. Remember, ammunition has not seen a down, or even flat, year since before 2008, and 2012 will be another large year in the ammunition market. We suggest you place orders with your suppliers or stay in contact with your just-in-time suppliers and stay ahead of this market. Some calibers that may be of more interest are the popular concealed carry handgun cartridges and the long range rifle rounds.
Check with your customers in those two venues to see what they’re shooting and have plenty on hand for them and their buddies, who quite likely will be buying much the same calibers. Also, as new calibers become “hot” during the year, check them out with your customers. There’s always someone in the gang who has to be first at the range with the “latest and greatest” according to the TV show they’re watching or the magazines they’re reading. And, at this point in this conversation, I just can’t help myself… I’ve just got to plug our own vast selection of ammunition at brownells.com where we are always in stock and ready to serve your immediate needs. Or work with our partner in the industry, “Crow Shooter Supply,” which is a massive wholesaler of ammunition.
Concealed Carry Pistols — No new trend here, but a huge emphasis on smaller frames fitting the smaller hand, with a lot of new models of all kinds of handguns specifically targeted at this market. The question we get from all of our friends, since we’re known as the “gun guys in Iowa” is “What pistol should I be getting for myself or my spouse?” Be prepared to answer this question from your customers or friends, and become the local expert on the subject while you’re at it.
Getting folks involved in shooting through the self-protection or concealed carry channel will only help our industry and solidify in their minds the enormous importance of personal ownership of firearms under the guarantees of the Second Amendment.
It’s important to have these pistols in stock to display, especially for a new purchaser of a firearm. These new buyers are going to want to handle them and test them for look, feel and weight – all very important to the new customer. Also, make sure you have a good selection of holsters and carrying devices and quick-access safes. We fielded questions about all of these things, and you’ll need to be prepared to show and tell and demo. And, if you’re really smart, you’ll offer concealed carry training classes for these new customers – and all the other folks who want to get the permits. We’re really astonished at how many folks want the CCW permit whether they’re ever actually going to carry or not. They just want the option of being completely legal and properly trained if the need ever does arise.
Cleaning Equipment & Range Equipment — A huge field of “stuff” with almost unlimited possibilities was at the SHOT Show. First, of course, are the basics: eye protection and hearing protection. Next, the various and multi-assorted cleaning rods and brushes, jags, patches and solutions. Lots of choices at the show. Some new and interesting ones, too. Then range equipment, with the choices limited only by what you and your customers want, need, or can afford. We saw some wonderful action targets that’ll make shooting lots more fun and can be used to make it more competitive, too. Next, everything from range mats to rests of all sorts and styles to the specialty things used by the long-range shooters and in the various other competitive venues, especially 3-gun. Shotguns galore and all the items that can go with this market. You need to understand your particular market and from the really gigantic selection out there, choose what works for your customers and the local ranges.
Just be prepared to special order what they need and you don’t stock – and be knowledgeable of what is available.
Tactical & Long-Range Rifles — We saw a significant presence of AR-style 308 caliber platform firearms, as well as long-range rifles based on the .30 caliber bolt-face. People want to be shooting accurately at a long distance – and this is where much of the buzz is at this moment. We saw the coordination of rifles and ammo suitable for long ranges, as well as many accessories for the bench and field that can assist in reaching out to 300–500 yards or, listening to the shooters talking, frequently much farther.
Social Media — Various forms of this phenomenon were so frequently mentioned in visits with folks that I think we need to discuss it. Marketing on the web has become almost automatic for lots and lots of companies and businesses. It seems if you want to be serious about your business you need a web site. Almost a given. Now Facebook, [AmmoLand.com] blogs and forums of all kinds are becoming a major source of information. People love the web and magazines as a source of information, but now they are linking up to various info interchanges and getting “the word” at lightning speed on just about any subject.
If you want to stay up to date with what people are looking for, you absolutely must have a web site, and by now you almost need the blogs, Facebook, and forums as a way to get people to find you and for you to get information out to them.
As we said at the opening, 2012 SHOT Show was frantic. We believe a good part of that will flow on into the buying patterns of the year: A record number of NICS checks in the weeks before Christmas than any other time ever. Record gun sales for 2011. Huge ammunition sales. An apparent up-tick in the number of hunting licenses issued in some areas. And, an ever increasing understanding and focus on the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
More and more people are “getting it” and exercising that right. You need to be ready for it in your shop in 2012.
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