End of an era


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natman
December 29, 2011, 01:02 PM
Western Sport Shop in San Rafael, CA is closing after 65 years.

Western was an old fashioned hunting and fishing store that specialized in service. They really would take a beginner out into the parking lot and teach them how to flycast. Bashing gun store clerks is practically a sport on gun forums, but the staff at Western had decades of experience and really knew what they were talking about. Yes, their prices were high, but they offered a degree of customer service that is hard to find these days.

It finally succumbed to internet competition, increasing urbanization, poor local hunting and fishing and heavy state regulation

It will be missed.

http://www.marinij.com/business/ci_19634876

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wannabeagunsmith
December 29, 2011, 03:41 PM
That really sucks.

lightman
December 29, 2011, 05:39 PM
Thats sad,very common but still sad. Lightman

deputy tom
December 29, 2011, 05:45 PM
I hate to see things like this.tom.:(

Deltaboy
December 29, 2011, 06:41 PM
I always hate to see a good gun shop close.

oneounceload
December 29, 2011, 09:32 PM
their prices were high,

It finally succumbed to internet competition, increasing urbanization, poor local hunting and fishing and heavy state regulation

While a shame, it sounds like they kept their original business model -which might have worked well 65 years ago, but would fail today. to stay afloat, you must improvise, adapt, and innovate

valnar
December 29, 2011, 09:54 PM
While I shop at places like Gander Mountain, I'd rather see GM go out of business than a small place like this. It's sad indeed.

Seanpcola
December 29, 2011, 10:54 PM
+1. There's something about a store that has been in business since "the good old days" that just can't be replicated. Plus the idea of family no longer perpetuating the business is sad. This is just like my RC model airplane hobby and the LHS going under. When I was a kid my pop would take me there and the excitement, smell and especially the attention payed by the employees to a customer, the willingness to share enthusiasm of the hobby/sport is being lost a little more every day. Knowledge being lost that may never be replicated.

Sometimes I really just wish not to be around modern society.

chevyman097
December 29, 2011, 11:04 PM
While I shop at places like Gander Mountain, I'd rather see GM go out of business than a small place like this. It's sad indeed.

Why in the world would you? I have never seen even a "on sale" ad at gander mountain cheaper than a local dealer or Academy/cabelas/bass pro at that.

Gander mountain is by far the worst.....cough "gun store" to shop at. Id hardly call it that.


just my 2cents but anyone supporting a rip off like gander mountain is helping put out the small guys just because of a name and marketing gimmicks.

smalls
December 29, 2011, 11:07 PM
This makes me depressed. As a younger guy, I missed the opportunity to shop at places like this. GM and the like with un-personal staff have taken their place. I shop my LGS whenever possible, because most of the guys in there use what they sell, and are willing to show you in a hands on way how something works. The big box stores have a very un-personal, hands off attitude, lately

valnar
December 29, 2011, 11:29 PM
Well, I never said I buy guns there.

Tcruse
December 30, 2011, 12:18 AM
I agree that we should support local gun stores. I suspect that it is not easy for them when the big stores run "specials" that represent 20% or more off the street price for guns. I see lines of people filling out the forms for gun purchases just about every time I visit Cabelas. I also see "lots" of people that go to gun shows, in this area it seems that there is one almost every weekend. The only complaint that I hear from our local store owner is that they can not get the models that are popular, always seem to be on back order.

splithoof
December 30, 2011, 01:04 AM
Bought more than one from a LGS, just because of great service. I try to make a yearly trip down to Los Angeles, just to buy something from one of the very few last holdouts, and afterwards send a letter to the mayor's office telling him what a great experience I had.

crazy-mp
December 30, 2011, 01:32 AM
I would rather go to a smaller store where the people know my name than, Mega Hunter Warehouse, or what ever the wiz bang new store is, the bad part is stores like Bass Pro and Cabelas usually have ammo for the same price as my local dealer, yes they buy .22 ammo by the train car load but they also have a few thousand employees and a couple dozen stores, so they do make more per box, but they have to move a lot more boxes.

Buying power is great, big overhead, not so much.

It really is sad when a store like this goes out of business, their knowledge, experience and customer service is becoming like a old motel along Route 66, forgotten and longed for.

Seanpcola
December 30, 2011, 09:09 AM
Don't know what it's like in other areas of the country but my favorite LGS here in Pensacola beats Academy and Bass Pro shop prices by a really good margin. The've been here a good while and I'll bet they stay a good while longer....I hope.

fpgt72
December 30, 2011, 10:44 AM
While a shame, it sounds like they kept their original business model -which might have worked well 65 years ago, but would fail today. to stay afloat, you must improvise, adapt, and innovate
(he climbs upon his soap box...and this may be the low road but hopefully it will educate)

You have no idea how pissed comments like this make me.

These stores are not going under because of failure to "improvise, adapt, and innovate" they are going under because of being under cut. I personally have seen this happen on more then once, and in more then one retail setting.

Big stores buy more, when you buy for 200 stores and you buy 3 of each item you get a better price then the little mom and pop shop that just buys 3 of the given item. Then you get into the "branded stuff" by that I mean the Cabelas sweat shirt that sells for 39.95 and has an actual cost of less then $5. (I know I worked there..but more on that later) Profit on soft line goods is what keeps these mega stores in business.

The little family owned shop is actually more flexable to market and customer changes then the big shops....changing policy in a place like Cabelas now takes an act of god...or more like those that think they are god.

I worked at Cabelas before Jim and Dick sold the company, and it was a fantastic place to work, and shop. People where there to help you, customer service was actually #1. It was very strange to see this setup in a large retail setting. After the company went public about 7 or so years ago it changed a great deal, payroll was cut, and the type of people hired changed. Before you had guys that knew fly fishing in the fly shop, now you have the warm body. Now don't get me wrong there are people that work there that still love the out doors and work there for the one reason to be around the stuff they care so much about, but they are getting fewer in number....and they are growing frustrated.

I saw the same thing happen at Borders....where the bottom line drove the company into the ground. People with no love or passion for the product ran the company and only about the bottom line. So the company drifted away from things and people that knew the product to warm bodies and selling paper and pink christmas trees that had huge margin.

The company can kill itself (Borders) with poor management, poor customer service, and many other things. But to say adapt or die is a pretty harsh statement. I have found that small companies are generally better at the adapt part then the larger companies.

Sorry if I came across as hard on this but I have seen the inside of borders for almost 30 years, my wife worked there, and I was with Cabelas for about 5 years. When a company goes public it looses tends to lose customer service.

willypete
December 30, 2011, 10:52 AM
Maybe it's just way too early for me to properly understand that, but let me try and break down my understanding:

Big company pursues items that generate profit: this causes them to fail.

Small, nominally adaptable business which can better respond to the needs of customers and market conditions fail because they... can't respond to being undercut, a market condition?

That just doesn't make sense. Would you care to elaborate?

InkEd
December 30, 2011, 11:56 AM
It is possible for LGS to compete with box stores. All of the LGS in Memphis are priced better than the box stores. The largest one is priced well enough to compete wth the Internet. The profit margins are probably slim BUT you can make it up in volume. Plus, the sales of ammo, holsters, etc. can help your margins. Lastly, the used gun sales can help alot too.

fpgt72
December 30, 2011, 12:14 PM
Maybe it's just way too early for me to properly understand that, but let me try and break down my understanding:

Big company pursues items that generate profit: this causes them to fail.

Small, nominally adaptable business which can better respond to the needs of customers and market conditions fail because they... can't respond to being undercut, a market condition?

That just doesn't make sense. Would you care to elaborate?
Yea it does not make sense. The problem (with borders) was that the profit margin on books is VERY small...this lead the upper management to look to other items they could sell that had high, in some cases very high profit margins. Everything from calenders to cards to bouncing balls and my personal fave....the PINK CHRISTMAS TREE. Then a few of these items do sell, so you get more, a few sell, more comes in, and it displaces the main thing people came in to your store for...books. They can buy bouncing balls at Wally world cheaper....and they have the New York top sellers as well. People stop coming because the first 20feet of your store is crap, and the old crap marked down that you can't get rid of...corp management wants the customer to walk past all this garbage in the hope that they will pick some knick nack off the table....customers are getting tired of seeing the book store turn into a garage sale, the staff getting cut and cut, no one to help, being told to just order online (borders farmed out their online sales to amazon because they did not want to invest in the technology....that does not make any money, I could start another thread on that) and they go elsewhere.

Cabelas is cutting the staff to save on costs, now the stores look like a dump when before they were showplaces. Customers have hours long waits. It took one customer 4 hrs to buy a rifle before christmas....before that would have never happened.

Small companies can compete with the big box stores, but they have to stay the course and have much smaller wiggle room when times get hard. The folks that own and run those business are the best this country has to offer.

I buy most of my stuff at a little mom and pop shop, nice clean and can order pretty much what I need. Some things like off the wall dies and such they can't get and I will order from midway and such. I don't think I have bought a firearm, scope or anything like that from cabelas or BP after I quit working for them.

willypete
December 30, 2011, 04:02 PM
Thank you, that makes more sense to me.

I try to support local businesses as long as the price difference isn't too extreme. E.g., I'll gladly spend a few extra bucks on a box of ammo ($30 vs. $25) but there have been local stores gouging ammo at $40 or $50 a box vs. $20 or $25. Not really sure I want those types of businesses to stay open, even if the alternative is Wally World.

oneounceload
December 30, 2011, 04:15 PM
(he climbs upon his soap box...and this may be the low road but hopefully it will educate)

You have no idea how pissed comments like this make me.

Incorrect about big stores - every time walmart opens in an area, the number of small businesses INCREASE. I have seen old-time gun stores refuse to modernize, no internet, no transfers, no special orders, carrying yesterday's guns because the owner didn't like them, etc.....if you want to survive, you have to develop your niche and specialty that lets you go against the big boys and win - doesn't matter the type of retail environment.

Tcruse
December 31, 2011, 10:04 AM
I see Cabelas mentioned numerous times in the responses. My observation in DFW area is that it depends on the store. I went to one store and it was bad. Prices high, old stock, bad selection, sales staff that was less than helpful .... On the other hand, the store in FW on I35W is a show place, the prices are generally below the catalog prices, good stock, some very good in-store sales from time to time.
There are sometimes long lines for gun purchase, but there are sometimes 20 or 30 people buying guns at the same time. The long lines appear to be the result of "paper work" and NICS calls. They have 8 desks setup for people to fill out the paperwork and as many clerks as space permits.
I have spent time talking with several of the gun counter people and all of the ones that I have had contact with have well thought out opinions and represent their products in a "fair and balanced" way. They seem to all be long time employees and not a different set every time you visit the store.

I usually do not buy from the other departments, but the other departments seem to be attractive. They serve some good meals in the lunch room.

My point is that some "large chain stores" are good and some are not. It is hard to paint all of the large stores with the same brush. I have purchased from the local store, gun shows and large stores. All have a place and value, the good ones stay and bad ones should go.

fpgt72
December 31, 2011, 11:11 AM
With cabelas each department is its own kingdom for lack of a better word. There is a store manager, hardline manager (hunting fishing camping) softline (clothes gifts) then asst mgrs for each, then there is a hunting manager, fishing manager camping and so on. Hardline is its own world....then there are opps, warehouse and so on. It is not out of the question to have over 500 people working at a cabelas and someone is there 24x7 to keep the place running.

It is the general manager that rides over all of this, if he is good the entire shop is good if not then the little kingdoms start fighting over floor space and such and it is not good.

So yes some are good and some are not, I was good friends with the HR mgr in texas and know a little about what you are talking about.

But in talking about the little guy, sure if the little guy can hang on when walmart puts that 10/22 on sale at christmas for 69.99 there is no way he can touch that. And to see first hand the american consumer (not customer but consumer there is a difference) come into the shop and rant and rave that the little guy will not match that price. It is pretty hard to stay in business when (we) put such value on price and no value on service.

xfyrfiter
December 31, 2011, 11:28 AM
I will look at the mdse. at wallyworld etc. but I tend to buy at my LGS. Case in point, yesterday I went looking for a specific part, I checked local stores, and the web, I found the part at my LGS, they not only were very competitive with other sources, but when I purchased they installed it free. BTW it was a free float handguard for an AR15, (required dissassembly of the upper.) I will go there again.

aprayinbear
December 31, 2011, 11:48 AM
It's already been said, but sad to see one of the good ones go. Same in the tool and hardware business. I was a furniture maker for 12 years and sadly watched as all local supplies for real woodworking tools dried up locally (just try to find a good set of carving gouges at Home Depot or Lowes.) These days I just expect to have to buy on-line and all to often that includes guns and reloading supplies.

The good news is that there are some sincere Mom & Pop online dealers out there who offer good service and prices. I buy many things from individuals on-line as well. I buy most of my reloading dies and supplies from Lee Factory Sales. They are always super fast and the best prices around. I buy burl wood from a guy in GA, and bullets from MidAtlantic. All of these folks will take the time to answer my questions and with a lot more knowledge then the guy behind the counter at the big store.

I'm also lucky to have a great local gun store about 1/2 hour away that is thriving and sells a good variety of powder. They know me and treat me well. At least I don't have to pay hazmat fees ordering over the internet.

Sadly, one of my favorite gun stores burned down last year. Was the kind of place where everyone hung out talking about old guns (the owner was a collector for many years.) The owner just doesn't have the energy to reopen. It was a big loss!

Generally I avoid the big stores, but I do go to a Bass Pro Shop several hours away to buy black powder. None of the local stores sell real black powder anymore.

Not Perfect.... but I keep on shooting!

ApacheCoTodd
December 31, 2011, 03:33 PM
I remember the closing of a rockin' old school shop on the north side of The City of Industry, nearly up against the mountains. Aside form really liking the owners (squared me away, righteously on my AMT hardballer longslide) the shop was a wonderful environment and in a pleasing "destination" location. I was more saddened by the statement it's closing made on the community than I was by my own personal loss in it's passing.

I feel your pain but now live in Arizona where they open as fast as they close in California. The down side is that even when they do open, they don't have that weird inventory squirreled away, sometimes for decades just waiting for YOU to come along and discover/appreciate it.

natman
January 5, 2012, 04:47 AM
This kind of sums it up:

http://www.marinij.com/ci_19677059

ApacheCoTodd
January 6, 2012, 11:36 AM
Let's just keep ordering everything off the internet and watch 'em all close down.

nosmr2
January 6, 2012, 03:32 PM
I will try to keep this on course, my apologies if I don't. I agree that it sucks to see any place, new or old, with a knowledable staff that takes care of its customers go out of business or change for whatever reason, going public, etc. Those establishments are few and far between for numerous reasons these days, a lot of those have been previously listed.

I have a Kroger and a Walmart in my town. Walmart is just like any other Walmart, not enough checkers, can't find a parking spot, way too crowded inside, etc. I shop at Kroger and pay a little more but these annoyances are lessened. My money is my time and less frustration. I'm sure some people where I live can't afford $5 more a week on groceries and shop at Walmart, which is great for them. Not gonna bash Walmart here, but I think you see my point.

I would love to support my LGS with all of my purchases. But I don't make enough money to keep me and him out of poverty. Allow me to digress a bit, some people can manage, some people have no business managing. A few examples and you will be able to recognize these people, as I'm sure you have met some. My neighbor does headliners, customer interior work, convertible tops and lots of dealer work. When he is actually on his sewing machine he makes several hundred dollars an hour, no kidding. When he is driving all over Houston (and that's a lot of driving) he isn't making a cent. Now, I know that he has to drive to pick the stuff up. Well, actually he doesn't. He could pay either son or someone else a decent wage to pick up an deliver while he sat in his garage sewing. Every time I speak to him he is behind. Probably because he drives half the day then works half the night. A few hundred dollars an hour and this man will never be rich. He is not a manager, plain and simple. His skillset is totally different. That's just one example of how he cannot manage his business. My last example and I will get back on the subject. I own a VW and had a mechanic that I became decent friends with. He can rebuild a carb and charge $130 for it. This takes around and hour start to finish once he is in his shop with it. And there are lots of people in need of her services. However, he spends half his day chasing down people on the internet, looking for shipping boxes and waiting in line at the post office. He is in debt up to his eyeballs. Same story, awesome skills, but cannot manage his business.

My LGS doesn't have a clue in the world how to manage. He has a strong interest in guns, but that isn't a license to make money selling them. I ordered a cheap AR-15 a few years ago from him. He ordered an extra just for the hell of it. He sold it within hours of receiving it. He got 2 more and sold them almost as quickly. Then he stopped ordering and selling them. Nothing changed, he just didn't want to do it. He has thousands of dollars tied up in overpriced guns no one wants to buy hanging up on the walls. I have seen the same collection for several years now. Mark them down a little to sell then use the money to buy new inventory that you can make money off of over and over. He would rather just leave them up there. And not take an initial loss. That's not hard to figure out, but you could never convince him that it is a sound business decision. He doesn't carry any of the other stuff to sell, holsters, cleaning supplies, etc. You know, some of the stuff that you can make money off as well. He has about 40 boxes of old, over priced ammo in a big stack in a showcase. If I can't tell what you have, then how am I going to buy it. Retailers merchandise (verb) their merchandise for a reason. They also vacuum their carpets and clean the glass. And the final straw, I was picking up a gun I ordered from a pawn shop a few months ago and paying the $25 transfer fee and he mentioned that he was going to have to raise his transfer fee. I asked about the circumstances. He said that due to Bud's, CDNN and a few others selling for so cheap he was going to start charging $100 to do transfers for them. I kinda laughed and starting thinking of someone else to do my transfers.

I guess the point I am attempting to make here is that in the competitive market we live in today our LGS must manage their stores. (Can you tell I'm in management.) But seriously, they do. If they do not have the skills to manage their store then they will go under. I'm not saying the store the OP referenced had that problem, but so many others brought up their LGS, I thought I would mention this. Paying someone to manage or consult might be a wise decision.

SharkHat
January 6, 2012, 03:46 PM
There's a well known LGS in my area that has a reputation for having great prices, but some people feel that it's a dive and that the staff are standoffish.

By all accounts, it's an old storefront in a hole-in-the-wall strip mall. Some people might get the impression of a swap meet or flea market atmosphere if all they do is give the place a quick glance (boxes of misc accessories on the floor and in corners, old display counters, etc). Take a closer look, and while the cases and floor may not be in top condition, the firearms are. Since I don't shop there for carpet or display cases, this works for me.

I'm assuming that low overhead enables this shop to continue to offer out the door pricing that would be competitive with an online purchase.

Strykervet
January 6, 2012, 04:08 PM
Let's just keep ordering everything off the internet and watch 'em all close down.
Not entirely true. Rainier Arms is an internet based business, but they are also a fine local spot too. Different model than most. Keeping up today means being a small local shop (Walmart is finding this out now) AND being an internet giant. To be an internet giant, all you need is FAST turn arounds and a closet to stock your goods in for the day. Look at Amazon. As big as they are, I can't find a giant warehouse anywhere out here that says "Amazon!" on the side that is commensurate with the volume of business.

nosmr2
January 6, 2012, 05:04 PM
The internet won't run everyone out of business.

LGS have one advantage the internet does not. You can go in and hold it. While the nice new shiny gun is in your hand is when the salesman sells the gun to you. That is their chance to make money. Most people would pay a little more to buy a gun in person from an LGS than order online. But when the LGS stock is so bare, outdated or just plain undesirable consumers are forced to buy from the online retailers. I was in retail electronics sales when the internet just started rolling. Sure lots of people came in played with our cameras, asked us all the questions then went online and bought one for $200 or so less. We adapted and remained profitable. Circuit City was poorly managed and went out of business, the internet expedited the process. Best Buy changed and remains in business.

The point I am attempting to make is give us a reason to spend a little more money with the LGS than online while we are in your store. Don't lie to us and/or insult our intelligience while we are shopping.

ApacheCoTodd
January 6, 2012, 07:42 PM
Not entirely true. Rainier Arms is an internet based business, but they are also a fine local spot too. Different model than most. Keeping up today means being a small local shop (Walmart is finding this out now) AND being an internet giant. To be an internet giant, all you need is FAST turn arounds and a closet to stock your goods in for the day. Look at Amazon. As big as they are, I can't find a giant warehouse anywhere out here that says "Amazon!" on the side that is commensurate with the volume of business.
True enough that the shops have the opportunity to profit from the internet too.

My greatest issue with internet retail was the amount of time and resources that we committed to say, one product like Trijicon, just to have it on hand in our shop so that customers could come in, glom on it, dick up the knobs then go search for a cheaper one on the internet and still have several of them each year try to get their Trijicon warranty serviced by us. This same scenario would be played out in a couple dozen product scenarios until I pulled all retail of accessories not manufactured by us as it had become a monumental waste of our time.

(Added) Also note that in the case of Trijicon, we were dead AT the lowest allowable manufacturer's price and still got undercut by internet short term or one-buy dealers.

Just an observation from a former shop owner on at least one effect of the internet on storefront retail.

I do loves me some internet though... I'm just sayin'.

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