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want to boost your long-gun sales? Need an additional frontliner? Manufacturers can help!

Load an extra salesman: want to boost your long-gun sales? Need an additional frontliner? Manufacturers can help!

Mark Diss

“Most stores don’t sell all the long guns they could,” said Stirling Morris, manager of Impact Guns, a full-service gun store in Ogden, Utah. “They don’t have the customer service or the inventory to supply the needs of customers.”

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The simple fact, experts say, is independent firearm retailers could sell a lot more long guns than they do. Why don’t they?

“Sometimes retailers don’t carry what the end user is looking for,” said Dennis Kendall, director of marketing for O. F. Mossberg & Sons. “They may carry some of the most popular SKUs but leave out niche-oriented guns people see in ads and catalogs. When customers get to the store, they can’t find those guns.”

Not having enough inventory is a major problem for many dealers, according to Tony Aeschliman, marketing manager for Marlin Firearms.

“A lot of dealers tend to not have a lot of product on the shelf, and it’s very difficult to sell from an empty wagon,” Aeschliman said.

Having the right inventory also involves timing.

“If the retailer has the gun the customer wants, but he has it the week after the customer wants it, it’s too late,” said Al DePaoli, president of ADCO Sales. “He’s already lost the window of opportunity to sell to that person.”

Morris ensures Impact Guns maintains an adequate inventory at all times and allows customers a lot of latitude when they are considering the purchase of a long gun.

“We even allow customers to shoot guns before they purchase one.” Morris said.

Selling Skills

The lack of merchandising and advertising also hampers long-gun sales.

“Some of the chains do a very good job of both,” Kendall said. “They spend significant amounts of money creating flyers and advertising. But independents tend to be small and they don’t have the bank accounts to create that kind of advertising.”

To compete with the chain stores in terms of advertising, Morris uses co-op advertising offered by manufacturers and distributors.

Then, there is knowing how to sell. Many retailers are educated about firearms, but they lack the skills needed to compete effectively in today’s marketplace.

“It can be a lack of education on the part of the store’s personnel in the basic concepts of selling,” said Casey Clifford, marketing manager for Charles Daly. “A customer may come in and say, ‘Sure, I’d like to buy a new gun, but I’ve already got one .30-06, so I don’t need another one.’ The retailer just says, ‘Okay,’ and doesn’t make an effort to talk to the customer about the advantage of multiple calibers for different game. It all boils down to knowing the sales process.”

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Employee training is the biggest problem most retailers face, according to Bob Gates, vice president of business development for Barrett Firearms.

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“When a retailer has a hundred rifles on the wall, it takes a dedicated employee to know each one of the manufacturers and brands, and the differences in them,” Gates said. “Employee training is the key to selling a specific product.”

To ensure his employees are properly trained, Morris holds weekly meetings with his staff to discuss new products, as well as trends in the industry.

“We have manufacturers’ reps come in and tell us what’s new, demo new guns and be available to answer customers’ questions,” Morris said. “We also use a lot of Internet resources and talk directly with manufacturers.”

While Morris and Impact Guns takes full advantage of what manufacturers offer, many other independent gun dealers do not.

“I think the large gun shops use their resources more,” said Brad Bernkrant, vice president of European American Armory. “But the smaller stores, probably not.”

In some cases, retailers do not know what’s available. In other cases, they don’t ask for help. Kendall says a key to getting help is developing relationships.

“Building a relationship with your distributor is one of the first steps,” he said. “Then it’s a matter of going up the chain and building a relationship with the manufacturers. Just by picking up the phone, a retailer can get answers to nine out of 10 questions he has.”

When dealers develop that kind of relationship, they can use manufacturers and distributors as their marketing and merchandising partners.

Adding An Extra Salesman

Many firearm manufacturers offer extensive help and support to retailers. Taking advantage of what these companies offer amounts to hiring an extra salesman for your long-gun department.

ADCO Sales provides signage to its dealers, highlighting the company’s shotgun offerings.

“When you put signage up in a store, you help a customer feel he’s buying a recognized brand and he has a gun he can be proud of,” DePaoli said.

ArmaLite sales reps cover a majority of the dealers in the United States.

“Either ArmaLite staff or our rep groups help dealers create open houses or other events to educate the customer,” said Monica Sipp, vice president of marketing. These events include range days–ArmaLite ships rifles and ammunition to the dealer and provides staff at the event.

“These range days give customers an opportunity to shoot our rifles. We also offer point-of-purchase material for the dealers to help sell rifles and educate customers,” Sipp said.

Austin Halleck’s rep groups do in-store and range training for retailers.

“They talk with retailers about how to sell our guns and show them how they work on the range,” said Doug Evans, vice president of sales and marketing.

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Sales reps also help retailers develop one or two key sales people as Austin Halleck pro staff. The company offers point-of-purchase materials, including banners and written materials for customers on how to get started in muzzleloading. Additionally, Austin Halleck offers co-op advertising on an as-needed basis.

“We don’t use a formula,” Evans said. “I’d rather custom shape a coop program with the rep on an individual basis.”

Barrett Firearms has multi-media materials to help dealers sell the company’s firearms.

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“We have videos to send out and a new CD available on our product line,” Gates said. “Dealers and customers can view them and learn about our products.”

Browning and Winchester Firearms provide their “Hunting and Shooting Dealer Workbook” to dealers. It has indepth information on all the companies’ products and contacts, a definition of terms and a wide variety of other facts and figures to help retailers. Throughout the year, Browning and Winchester have special promotions that dealers can use to encourage customers to buy long guns.

“We try to keep people fired up about selling our guns all year,” said Scott Grange of Browning/Winchester. “Our sales reps are constantly out there training and supporting retailers, doing store openings and just knocking themselves out to help dealers.”

Charles Daly uses its Web site (www.charlesdaly.com) to provide dealers with information that is more in-depth than the company’s catalog.

“It’s in real time,” Clifford said. “Because we’re a very fluid business, we get things in that don’t get into the catalog. Retailers need to go to the Web site because it’s more current.”

A phone call to Charles Daly (1-866-325-9486) will also garner help from the sales department or service department.

European American Armory also has a toll-free telephone number retailers can use to get tips on how to sell.

“We also have our Web site (www.eaacorp.com), so we’re available by phone and computer, or by flipping the pages of our catalog,” Bernkrant said.

FNH USA has had an aggressive stocking dealer program for the past two years. Earlier this year, the company’s “Stock the line that is anything but stock” campaign offered a free FN Hi-Power to stocking dealers who purchased a certain combination of six FN firearms.

“We’re eager to expand our solid and growing dealer base,” said Rick DeMilt, director of sales and marketing. “We’ve made major strides in reaching the commercial marketplace.”

FNH USA has streamlined its distribution system, which has increased the number of telephone calls to the company’s marketing department.

“We get a lot of calls that normally would go to a distributor,” DeMilt said. “I personally handle a lot of those calls, because it’s a great snapshot of what’s happening in the marketplace.”

H-S Precision is in a transitional phase of providing support items for dealers, according to Todd Houghton, vice president of business development.

“We’re just getting into point-of-purchase materials and training manuals for retailers,” Houghton said. “We also have a number of reps who can go to retailers and train them on the features of our guns and how to sell them.”

Marlin Firearms has a newsletter that goes to its pro shops, a toll-free telephone number (1-866-776-9292) for dealers who have technical questions and a very active sales force.

“Our salesmen make hundreds of visits to dealers every year,” Aeschliman said. “They handle problems, educate the dealer on new products and provide advice on hot sellers in the territory. That’s a major trust for us.”

O. F. Mossberg & Sons has a large sales force that’s available to answer retailers’ questions by telephone or during visits, and to present new products, ideas and promotions. The reps are backed by many direct mail pieces about the company’s latest promotions.

“These are always geared toward helping the dealer, like our ‘buy five, get one free,’ promotion,” Kendall said.

Sales reps also put together regional advertising opportunities, where retailers can take a general ad that promotes Mossberg products and insert their own store information.

“That helps drive traffic at a regional level, without a whole lot of effort on the dealer’s part,” Kendall said.

Remington Arms’ award-winning Web site (www.remington.com) has interactive safety and education courses for retailers.

“These are Product 101 to Product 105 courses,” said Al Russo, communications manager. “We’re proud of our Web site. It has more than 4,000 pages with a lot of information retailers can use.”

A telephone call to Remington (1-800-243-9700) will get dealers point-of-purchase materials. Remington also began a national promotion Aug. 1.

“We’re offering rebates on steel shotshells and Hevi-Shot, and we have a centerfire ammunition Gold Box offer of a free T-shirt and hat,” Russo said. “If dealers promote it, they’ll sell twice as much product.”

Traditions Performance Firearms has sales reps who are available to visit dealers and explain the features of the company’s firearms.

“We also have a video available that we can send to dealers to show them how to use, shoot and clean the guns. They can use the video either to train their employees or to show customers,” said Jim Bruno, marketing director.

Sturm, Ruger & Co. debuts a new retailer newsletter this month called the “Hawkeye,” named for a historical Ruger firearm.

“We want to get the latest information about our products and services to dealers on a periodic basis,” said Ken Jorgenson, shooting sports and media relations coordinator. “Getting a catalog once a year doesn’t cover everything, and we need to have a way to let people in the stores know when new products come along.”

The newsletter will also contain information about specials for both retailers and distributors.

“We all know the better armed the retailer is, the better job he’s going to do in selling to the consumer,” Jorgenson said. “If he doesn’t know about the gun, he can’t sell it. That’s where we can help.”

LONG-GUN MARKET

ADCO Sales 318

Anschutz 319

ArmaLite Inc. 320

Austin & Halleck 321

Barrett Firearms 322

Benelli USA 323

Beretta USA 324

Browning 325

Century Int’l Arms 326

Charles Daly 327

Colt’s Mfg. Inc. 328

CZ USA 329

Dakota Arms Inc. 330

EMF Co. Inc. 331

European American Armory 332

FNH USA Inc. 333

Gibbs Rifle 334

H & R 1871 335

H.S. Precision Inc. 336

Heckler & Koch Inc. 337

Henry Repeating Arms 338

Ithaca Gun Co. 339

Kel-Tec 340

Kimber Mfg. 341

Marlin Firearms Co. 342

Navy Arms Co. 343

New England Arms Corp. 344

New England Firearms 345

O.F. Mossberg & Sons 346

Remington Arms Co. 347

Rossi 348

Savage Arms 349

Sigarms 350

Springfield Armory 351

Sturm, Ruger & Co. 352

Taurus International 353

Thompson Center Arms 354

Traditions Performance Firearm 355

Weatherby Inc. 356

Winchester Firearms 357

COPYRIGHT 2004 Publishers’ Development Corporation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group