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Old July 16, 2012, 01:06 PM   #1
Pilotperk
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Opening a gun shop -- UPDATE: Two Years In!

Hi, thanks for looking at this thread. Would you please tell me the top 5 things you would need/want in the gun shop of your dreams? Me and my partner are opening a gun shop in Florida and we are going to go all out. If you don't mind also list the top 3 things you dislike about most gun shops you have visited in the future. We will also have a gun range at our location. Any and all ideas will be used in our thought process during this stage. Thanks again, Ron
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:08 PM   #2
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You need a lot of money for inventory- A LOT! And secondly, don't.. it is a huge pain in the ass.. everything from ATF to cheap ass curmudgeons.

Don't, just Don't...
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:13 PM   #3
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Use the search engine as this has been discussed countless times. I still have my FFL forms sitting in my inbox on my desk. It's a real pain in the butt.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:16 PM   #4
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Hi Pilotperk! And welcome to THR!

You've come to a great place to ask that question. In fact, that or others quite like it have been asked many times before, here, and some great answers have been given.

Your exact question: http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=651131

Other related threads from the first two pages of search results:
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=664876
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=665501
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=652172
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=648912
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=636729
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=635059
http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=629013

Obviously what folks want -- and DON'T want -- in a gun shop is something we discuss a lot.

We also have quite a few members who are FFLs and who are willing to share both insights and dealer resources to help get you going in the right direction.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:18 PM   #5
Pilotperk
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Thanks gym and sam, I did search prior and found some interesting stuff. Really sorry if the thread is similar and upsets you. I just thought that wanting a list of top 5 things was different enough to start something new. There may be a few you listed that i missed but i will read them all. Have mods delete if its necessary Thanks for helping, Ron
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:22 PM   #6
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1. Prices clearly marked. I hate having to speak with someone just to get the price. 2.Let the used guns be accessible to being picked up and examined. Maybe on racks with cables running through the trigger guards. 3. Have layaway. Im a tightwad. I would rather pay $50 a week than $500 at once. My lgs before recently moving had a 3 month layaway. This is a good number. 4. Sell handloading gear and components. 5. Tell your employees to not act like they know everything if they don't. Asking someone is ok. Top dislikes go along with when shops do not have my likes. Good luck. I would really like to do the same. There really isn't a lgs in my town.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:24 PM   #7
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You need a minimum of $1,000,000 in inventory to even begin thinking about opening a real gun shop.

A handful of guns and some miscellaneous junk isn't a gun shop.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:26 PM   #8
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I wouldn't be surprised if you get a few PMs from FFLs on here who want to help you out but don't feel like starting another shop owner vs customer flame war. People get prickly on both sides of the issue and the bashing starts pretty early sometimes. Good luck to you, starting a business is hard & doing it with a partner can be even harder sometimes.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:28 PM   #9
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Start small, have a good business plan and a good partnership contract etc. Might be better to open a pawnshop and as things go on to branch out into guns guns guns and reloading etc. Good luck
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:29 PM   #10
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Top five I'd want to see:
1. Customer service. That means polite, well-informed staff.
2. Real prices clearly marked. Not extra high ones for haggling purposes.
3. Some inventory standards. So not just any old junk or rust buckets.
4. But also a mix of inventory, so for AR's for example not just the latest uber high tactical. And a mix of new and used.
5. Being able to handle the hardware safely. Have a few game heads on a side wall for people to aim at, and encourage them not to sweep everyone. But it's imperative that the firearm be open to fondling. Most of my purchases are based above all on the *feel* of a particular firearm.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:30 PM   #11
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Hi Ron

You can read the provided links which have a wealth of useful information.

My wife and I had a real good successful little brick and mortar gun shop. First we sold things not available in the big box joints. There is no way you will compete with Wal-Mart selling Mossberg 500 shotguns.

We had a friendly shop where the coffee pot was always brewing.

Once we had the shop we continued to work gun shows, simply to promote the shop. Networking and getting your existence out is real important.

These were pre computer times mostly but today I would have a website listing stock and inventory.

We had a great nitch with reloading supplies. A large range of powder, bullets and cases as well as other reloading components. That went well as nobody for miles had what we carried.

Geography is important. Our client focus was the greater Cleveland, Ohio suburbs. Work like hell to see what does or does not sell or work in your area. Also, know what the other shops are doing. They are your competition!

Just Some of My Thinking....
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:31 PM   #12
Sam1911
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Quote:
Really sorry if the thread is similar and upsets you
No worries! You'll see a LOT of valuable insight (as well as heaping helpings of grousing and fluff, of course) in those threads. A lot of what NOT to do. A lot of info about what folks really like, too.

And probably an inkling that the stuff folks claim to want most might not really be the stuff that ends up paying the bills week-to-week.

And you'll see that it will be impossible to meet the standard we all most want:

A little old antique hole-in-the-wall place with an enormous inventory, where everything is modern and up-to-date and computerized, and where each customer is known by name and you (all) get the 'friend's' deal. Where the staff is courteous and attentive and makes sure you get that personal service, and leaves you alone and doesn't bug you while you handle the wares. Where everything on the racks is top-notch, with none of that low-brow cheap crap -- and at better prices than WalMart, please.

Hire only the best, most knowledgeable staff, who've been there and done that, and are humble and polite to everyone, and who know the right answer and know to agree with whatever I say. And if you could figure out an area where you can undercut the big box stores on price, that would be nice. Maybe in rifles, and pistols. And ammo. And scopes, and cases, and cleaning supplies. If you want to make your mark-up on hunting clothes and boots, that's fine. I'll order them from Cabela's anyway.

Do all that and you'll be a huge success!

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Old July 16, 2012, 01:34 PM   #13
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I believe there is a way to get your new guns through the manufacturers without buying them outright. You pay them x when you sell x type thing. You need really good credit though. I could be wrong. I heard someone say this that used to have a gun shop.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
list the top 3 things you dislike about most gun shops you have visited
1. Surly old farts younger then me behind the counter telling me they know way more about what I need to buy, then what I went in the store to buy.

2. Kids dressed like Mall-Ninjas behind the counter telling me they know way more about what I need to buy, then what I went in the store to buy.

3. Overly inflated prices on new and used guns, reloading supplies, etc.
I understand they need to charge higher prices then on-line due to overhead at the shop.
But not 50% or 60% more!

rc
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:43 PM   #15
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1.Offer discounts if a customer buys more than one firearm.
2.Offer case lot pricing on ammo.
3.Very Large clearly marked prices w/ caliber, type..etc especially for long guns on the wall.
4.Package deals; Pistol, extra mag, box of ammo, holster...etc.
5.Monthly or weekly specials...it will keep customers coming to see what's on sale.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:47 PM   #16
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@ midwest. I like #4 & #5. I was going to list those but would have been #6 & #7 for me so I left them off.
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Old July 16, 2012, 01:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rcmodel View Post
1. Surly old farts behind the counter telling me they know way more about what I need to buy, then what I went in the store to buy.

2. Kids dressed like Mall-Ninjas behind the counter telling me they know way more about what I need to buy, then what I went in the store to buy.

3. Overly inflated prices on new and used guns, reloading supplies, etc.
I understand they need to charge higher prices then on-line due to overhead at the shop.
But not 50% or 60% more!

rc
That pretty much sums it up for me as well.
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Old July 16, 2012, 02:13 PM   #18
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Guess I am one of the lucky ones, I have two different GUN SHOPS that are within 14 miles. Both have excellent selection, more than fair prices and tons of this and that stuff. The closest is the newest, just about 1yr now but coming on strong. Black Powder shooters are rare in my area, and every so often one of these two will give me a call for information, and a third will call also. It makes a customer feel decent when GS calls you for anything other to complain. The 1st shop owner has and does throw in little items even if you have not bought anything on that paticular visit. They have bought new brands of ammo and will give a box or two not only to me but others to give them real world reviews. In general you have to treat customers like THEY are the reason you are in business to begin with, which they are, not saying that you have to kneel down and plant a kiss on their backside but at least act like you are just a happy to see them visiting as much as when the customer buys. Pricing is something that is in my opinion the hardest. With the big box sellers on the internet it can be hard to match their price. Just remember that you should not try to make all your profit from one sale and most often the customer will return.
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Old July 16, 2012, 02:23 PM   #19
fallout mike
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I will buy from a lgs if its close to $50 more than online. After shipping that equates to roughly $25 more. To me its worth that to be able to fondle the gun while deciding. And if there is a problem its more convenient from the lgs.
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Old July 16, 2012, 02:46 PM   #20
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if your shop turns into a grungy, poorly lit place that smells like 'man-cave', and all communication is pointing and grunting punctuated by jargon, MOST of us won't care. Consider having women on staff, though (eye candy is nice, but not what I mean -though it's nice ). If there are women on staff who actually hunt and carry and have experience with firearms, you might be able to draw, well, that other 50% of the population that often don't come on their own. Business is what draws people to a shop... the social aspect, conversation with staff that we understand and understand us, makes it a place we come to hang out and make 'impulse buys'. Our wives like guns, too... mine does... but her idea of 'social' is vastly different. Witness: I am a THR forum member; my wife is not. I talk about guns, and want to look at pictures of guns. She wants to talk about guns, and how she feels about guns, and how her friends look in clothes that conceal guns, and that really insensitive thing Sue's husband said last month about concealing better if she lost 20 lbs, and look at pictures of her shooting friend's kids, and that sweater Anne's mom knitted that keeps hanging up on her LCP... what do you mean, "off topic"?
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:06 PM   #21
Pilotperk
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Love the feedback, thanks so much! Keep it coming :-) I am truly going to use all this information and I'm grateful for such polite and quick input. Im fortunate to be in a position where money will not be an issue with my startup. I really want to get all the valuable information I can to succeed. I have and still own other successful business operations (nothing gun related) for over 20 years but I still don't even know have of what I wish I did on owning a business. Im a sponge and will take in all the great information and ideas you guys/gals have. With what I have read in this and other threads I see that outside of knowledgeable and friendly customer service first and foremost.
1) online access to inventory
2) prices clearly marked
Are two of the top needs in a shop thus far. Reloadron, thanks for your personal experience input and i wish you continued success.
Thanks again, Ron
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:15 PM   #22
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You'll need to be lower on every single price than the lowest price anyone can find on the internet.
You'll need to offer expert opinion and advice 24/7
You'll need to have at least one of everything in the SportsSouth catalogue. If you have a selection of NIB Colt Pythons at original prices that will help too.
The customer is always right. Always.
You will do transfers for free because it's hardly any work for you.
The place will be beautifully laid out and finished and you won't mind if people bring their lunch and eat while handling guns.
Hours will be 24/7 and by appointment.
You will have a state of the art gun range with enough lanes so no one needs to wait, even on really busy days.
Range fees are waived for anyone making any purchase whatsoever.

Why do you want to do this, again?
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:17 PM   #23
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I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the guns i want and if not i'll do the research. So to be honest the best price i can find is usually number one priority. For most people here that will probably hold true. For people who are not as passionate about guns as the those who frequent gun msg boards the wants in a gun store will be quite different.

There is a gun store in East TX that is just massive with incredible prices. I've never been there when it wasn't packed and they make sell after sell. Its almost like being at a gun show being located in a large warehouse like building. They make their money in volume but don't even sell online. They also have a huge inventory and offer a layaway plan as well. That seems to me to be the right business model.
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:22 PM   #24
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Texan Scott has a great suggestion if you can make it work -- very knowledgeable WOMEN on staff will reap great rewards. It may seem silly to even consider gender in this post-"ism" society, but it matters!

There's just a different dynamic that a smart, personable lady, who really knows guns and shooting, brings to the discussion that will resonate with some of your customers and you will make SALES because of her/them.

Time was that the gun shop counter was the province of the old grumpy curmudgeon and you couldn't find a lady who could speak the language. Now, oh how that's changed! I have a friend who's a sponsored IDPA and USPSA shooter these days who's probably made more sales for various manufacturers than two average gun store clerks -- and she doesn't work in a shop! She's just awesome with helping other ladies (and guys, too!) learn how to shoot, learn about guns, and figure out what works for them.

If an opportunity like that is available to you, do NOT pass it up!

(Oh...but the eye candy thing? Don't do that. Got some dealers who come out to the local shows who get some young gal they (it seems) lured into their van to stand around in a halter and short-shorts and get the guys to hang around their booth drooling on the ammo. It's loathsome. Keep it professional. The folks you want to attract will be more impressed with a middle-aged lady who can talk about guns and shooting like a pro and shoots master level scores at the range.)
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:26 PM   #25
Gregaw
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Here's my two cents...

What I love:
- Cheap transfer fees. ($20 or less)
- Prices comparable to online retailers when shipping, transfer, and taxes are taken into account. (be competitively priced)
- Quickly responds to email/web queries and have evening hours at least a couple days per week (be accessible)
- Be able to quickly get quotes together for special orders (I don't think you need $1,000,00 inventory, you still won't have what half your customers want)
- Since you have a shooting range, have lots of rentals available!

Things I hate:
- Not being able to get a hold of anyone. (phone not answered during business hours, emails not returned for days...)
- An unhelpful/snotty attitude.
- Ridiculous prices.
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