Author: Thurman, Debbie
Date published: August 1, 2011
Consumers have reestablished traditional long guns - rifles and shotguns - as top sellers, this after the extended upsurge in the sale of modern sporting rifles. While MSRs are still selling, they aren't dominating the rifle market. Hunters and recreational shooters are now purchasing more "traditional" long guns.
Dealers who have been around long enough to appreciate what it takes to weather fluctuating market trends know long guns will hold steady as the firearms of choice for seasoned shooting enthusiasts, as well as for novice shooters.
But what can dealers do in today's marketplace to enhance long-gun sales? As one longtime businessman is demonstrating, they can marry tried-and-true practices with newer ways of promoting.
Jay Wallace, CEO of Adventure Outdoors Inc. in Smyrna, Ga., and owner of Smyrna Police Distributors Inc., has been in the firearms business since 1977. Wallace added the name Adventure Outdoors in 1986. He calls the nearly 74,000-square-foot operation, a "grocery store of firearms." Later this year, Wallace will christen his first indoor shooting range, which will accommodate handguns and rifles.
Focus, Promote And Execute
What gives Adventure Outdoors its longevity and success in marketing long guns?
"One of the things we're doing is 'focus advertising.' We pick a manufacturer each month and have a couple days where it's all about them. We'll do Constant Contact advertising with our e-mail mailing group, and we'll promote it on Twitter and Facebook," Wallace said. "We'll have promotions for that manufacturer and bring in the factory rep. Our customers can ask questions, and the rep can promote all the new products for that line. This has been working really well for us."
Yes, this "old timer" is cozy with today's electronic and social media. Wallace's Adventure Outdoors website (www. adventureoutdoors.us) is another example of marketing effectiveness.
"These types of communication are just going to get stronger. More and more people are adjusting to them. They're quicker and more reliable than the old ways of contacting folks," Wallace said.
Customers interested in the firearm brand being promoted in a given month can take advantage of Adventure Outdoors' special deals, and ask a factory rep any question they want - in person. Georgia customers can even make purchases online.
A glance at the Adventure Outdoors Facebook page (which had over 1,200 "likes" in its first 12 weeks) let customers know that "Savage Days" were coming. On the appointed Friday and Saturday in June, all Savage firearms in stock were offered at their lowest prices of the year.
Wallace also partners with other businesses to draw customers into the store. A local car dealer helped sponsor a hunting contest that netted the winner a $2,500 shopping spree. The customer's beaming face is featured on Adventure Outdoors' Facebook page.
Wallace also promotes his Facebook efforts. To drive Adventure Outdoors' Facebook page "likes" to 1,400, Wallace is offering chances at Atlanta Braves tickets.
Enhance Service, Anticipate Spikes
Wallace says his store aims for strong year-round hunting, target-shooting and recreational sales in long guns. The topselling brand in traditional rifles for Adventure Outdoors is Remington. That tracks with national sales statistics, as do their customers' shotgun preferences.
"We sell a lot of Remington shotguns. The Mossberg shotguns are also good, and Winchester is coming back," Wallace said.
Like other dealers, Wallace also looks forward to his seasonal upticks for longgun sales. Georgia boasts some fine hunting experiences for those who venture afield. But, he says, there is always room for improvement.
"Rifles are doing OK for us now. Deer season steps it up a lot in the fall. Our turkey season is fair. I would like for it to be better. Turkey hunting is a lot of fun. That's an area we may need to promote more," Wallace said.
Adventure Outdoors is always looking for ways to enhance the customer experience. One new service they will soon provide for long-gun enthusiasts is presighted-in scope packages.
"We do combos for our customers, with the scope, mount and everything pre-set and ready to go. With the new store, we'll be able to have these already sighted in. That's a step up for us," Wallace said.
Wallace advises dealers to remain flexible in how they run their businesses.
"You adapt to the market by looking for the spikes in business. You have to be ready for them," he said. "For example, changing legislation affects your business dramatically, and if you're not ready for that, you'll be sitting there with a bare cupboard. You have to keep inventory. It's not so much preparing for the downtimes; it's being ready for the spikes."
One of those spikes was the hot sales of modern sporting rifles, and Adventure Outdoors enjoyed the flush AR sales. Wallace was prepared then - and now.
"Accessories for the ARs are still selling because of the leftovers from the AR boom. The guns themselves have slowed down, but the accessories are still hanging on, which is good," Wallace said.
Adventure's traditional long gun sales (minus the ARs) are basically even with last year, Wallace says. He leaves the door open for any opportunity for increased sales.
"We want to be the grocery store of firearms so if it's something you're interested in, you can come to us and we'll have it. We don't do away with a category because it's slow," he said.
It's A Family Thing
Wallace is particularly proud of the new shooting range Adventure Outdoors is about to launch.
"We're building a range that will have 10 handgun-rated and seven rifle-rated lanes. The rifle-rated lanes will shoot up to .308," he said.
Wallace envisions - and is bringing to fruition - a multi-layer enterprise that truly fives up to Adventure Outdoors' name. What makes it special, Wallace emphasizes, is the whole family approach to fun and "adventure." In addition to the range, Adventure Outdoors will boast a fun shooting and recreational venue in a 150-acre farm setting.
"We have a crawler-loader and a dump truck, so we can build our berms and whatever we want. We're digging out a pond right now," Wallace said. "Our business philosophy is to incorporate the whole family. It's what we're doing with our new store. We want to make it so the husband, wife and children can come in and have a good experience. That's the same thing we want to do with our farm. We want to some special promotions, take kids or hunting, and have husband-wife hunts. We're thinking about making the new gan, 'Greatest Store on Earth.'"
Better For All
Whether a dealer has the resources to expand into a mega enterprise or maintains a simpler shop, the same business philosophies and practices apply for long-gun sales - or any sales. Wallace cares about his fellow businessmen and -women in the industry, just as he does his customers.
"Dealers need to think outside the box, and look at what they're doing as an industry. We need to be more like a family, and do things that promote our industry. Our range is going to have people shooting more, and that's going to help other dealers in the area. If they buy a gun from another dealer, they can come into my store and shoot it. The more application there is, the better it is for all of us," Wallace said.
Editor's Note: Jay Wallace and his team at Adventure Outdoors have expanded their operation and its outreach while fighting a years-long legal battle against the city of New York and Mayor Michael Bloomberg - a battle in which Adventure Outdoors finally prevailed.
For all the background, visit the company's official blog at www.bloom.bergfightbackfund. com.
Thank you, Jay and all the folks at Adventure Outdoors.