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Things are tough all over...

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Tamara, Aug 14, 2003.

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  1. Tamara

    Tamara Senior Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    In the name of market research, I'm kinda curious: What'd get you to spend some money with that vanishing species, Localus Gunstoreus?


    1) Don't try to go head-to-head with Wallyworld and the 'Net on guns & ammo. You ain't gonna outsell Wal Mart on bulkpack Winchester or Remington 700 BDL's, nor Ammoman on cases of South African .223. Stock stuff I want to buy in sub-case quantities right now: defense ammo, oddball military calibers, high-end ammo, and et cetera.

    2) If anyone behind the counter shows a tendency to BS about their imaginary Vietnam experiences rather than trying to research a factual answer to a question, fire them. Immediately.

    3) Hire a good gunsmith. Pay him right, proselytize about his services, and sell a kidney to keep him there, if that's what it takes.

    4) Get involved in competitive shooting. These guys spend money; make sure your name is on every one of their lips. Sponsor matches, hand out cards, give away tee-shirts, whatever...

    5) Stock accessories. Sure, that SureFire fore-end or Ed Brown mainspring housing might be two dollars cheaper someplace online, but being able to fondle it in the store and walk out with it on your gun that very day is worth a couple of bucks.

    Y'all's thoughts on the matter?
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 19, 2002
    Service, variety and knowledge. Local gunshops should have that and if they don't have what you want, they should be willing to order it for you. Knowledge and expertise and enthusiasm in sharing it (or learning from a customer) helps develop a repoir based on trust and mutual respect. That keeps the client coming back - at least it did for the store I shopped it (and still buy stuff).

    As far as selling a kidney, I haven't stooped low to steal body parts from other folks yet. Haven't reach the hubcap level either.
  3. Mannlicher

    Mannlicher Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    North Central Florida and Miami Florida
    I don't usually get into these threads, but.........

    I buy probably 95% of my guns from Harry Beckwith in Micanopy Fla. Harry is not the most inexpensive. Harry is not the most convienent. I live in Miami, and have to drive 350 miles to shop there. Harry is not into BS and hype.

    What Harry is, though, is :
    A. honest as the day is long
    B. Knowledgable beyond belief
    C. Stocked to the point that you can buy .22 Savage Hi Power off the shelf,
    D. Displays some of the most wonderful Lugers, Parkers , and antique weapons you have ever seen.
    E. A darn good friend. I have know Harry for 36 years
    F. Willing to work with the comman man

    and the list could go on and on. Those of you on the board that know Harry will back me up.

    So Tamara, I spend a lot of money with my local gun dealer. Do I buy guns else where? Yes, a bargain is always a bargain. But my loyalty is not to Wally World, Bass pro Shop, or anyother place, than with Harry Beckwith.
  4. Old Fuff

    Old Fuff Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    Used to work for a retailer who followed you're points. Started with next-to-nothing and ended up one of the biggest outfits in the area.

    You're suggestions are dead on.
  5. carp killer

    carp killer Member

    Jan 26, 2003
    In the name of market research, I'm kinda curious: What'd get you to spend some money with that vanishing species, Localus Gunstoreus?

    Ok, If the local gun store would stock stuff that I look for at gun shows. Stuff like cases of cheap 7.62x39, 5.45x39, .308 and .223. Lots of AK's, AR's, FAL's, G3's and other "evil" black guns. All kinds of hi-cap magazines for "evil" black rifles. And military gun parts. Then I would spend money.
  6. Lord Grey Boots

    Lord Grey Boots Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Snohomish, WA
    Have someone work the register, so that when I walk up to the counter with my hands full of stuff from the shelves, I can pay for it and leave immediately.

    I DON'T like standing around waiting to give you money.
  7. Atticus

    Atticus Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    My favorite store (long since closed) had racks and racks of used rifles and shotguns that you could pick up and fondle. They carried many old milsurp's and typically sold them for under $100. There were only two employees and both could tell you just about anything, about any gun in their shop. They would and could do minor gunsmithing, and they would generally do it while you waited. If you bought a rifle and scope (regardless of price) they would mount and boresight it, right on the counter, right then. Somtimes they would charge you $5 for the service, other times they would negotiate it as part of the package. They loved to dicker, and they built in a few bucks in the starting price just for that reason. If something was not right with the gun, they would make it right. They always seemed to have odd parts and accessories in the back room. I always left there feeling good about what I bought, and usually left with a plan in mind to come back soon and buy another. They were honest and plain spoken (occasionally to the point of being painfull), but you always learned something. Unfortunately, they were located in the middle of nowhere, and one of them developed health problems, so they decided to call it quits.

    To better address your question - I'd like to see a combo gunstore/snack bar/coffee shop. Give people more reasons to come -stay- and spend money.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2003
  8. jsalcedo

    jsalcedo Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    I have access to 6 shops none of them are perfect but all have something
    that keep me coming back.

    Quality pawn and guns

    Decent prices and a bunch of oddball guns will haggle.
    Fairly knowledgeable staff that won't BS you.

    Dons Guns
    Has a great gunsmith and a small shop full of odds and ends but a box of 32acp is 17 bucks

    Old fort trading post
    Has a huge selection of thousands of guns, tons of old dies, holsters, cartridges No knowledge though and high prices.

    has very helpful knowlegeable staff, decent prices and an extensive reloading and black powder accesories.

    Has the competition shooting involvement and gunsmith who works on IDPA guns as well as regular everyday stuff. friendly and honest

    A place to shoot. gunsmith that will let a gun sit for 6 months without getting to it. Ok selection of long guns but very good staff that will spend the time getting you what you need with reloading, trap, hunting, CCW
    and self defense.

    I sure wish there was a one size fits all shop like you describe but it looks like everyone has their niche and sticks to it.
  9. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Member

    Jan 12, 2003
    NE Florida

    Good list. I would add that it also should work the other way, that is, we should always strive to support our local gunstore. A few extra bucks spent there is being spent on your future freedom. Wallyworld can have a corporate decision come down that puts them out of guns and ammo forever, at any time. If your local gun stores all went belly up in the meantime, where are you going to turn to?

    We need our local gun stores, support them!

  10. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

    Dec 24, 2002
    Idahohoho, the jolliest state
    I'd much rather do business locally, but outright lies are over the line, and so are price and time estimates that bear no relation to reality.
  11. Kaylee

    Kaylee Moderator

    Dec 19, 2002
    The Last Homely House
    I think some of it depends on who you're selling to -- the die hard hobbyists, or the newbies who just realized having a gun around is a good idea and the once-a-year hunters.

    If the former -- what you said. Plus -- reasonably low rates on transfers. A lot of the diehards are gonna be ordering/trading online,reading trade papers,and the like, and will KNOW your dealer cost more or less. Better all of a $10-$15 fee than none of a $25 fee. Heck, ADVERTISE that fact if you have it by maybe putting a sign behind the counter. Or maybe throw a couple printouts/photocopies of the latest good SGN deals on the counter with the notice "find something you like? distributor cost + X" Might make it harder to sell $899 Bushmaster A2s sitting on your shelf, but again.. better a slimmer margin on a made sale than none at all to the guy who went elsewhere. AND... you effectively add to your inventory with no overhead. Just a thought...

    Further, I'd be wary about stocking C&R stuff.. just 'cause I've not met many folks who want to pay an extra $100 for you to strip off the cosmoline for 'em. On the other hand... making sure the SAR-1s you just bought are all nice and squared up would be worth a little premium over the AIM+transfer fee route.

    Also, a goodly supply of trade-in guns and parts. There's a lot to be said for a smith that will sell you bits out a used parts bin, especially when he's willing to offer commentary and help in the process.

    All that for the regulars. For the walk-ins -- selling packages (weapon, ammo, holster, training) and hunting licenses/tags/hunter safety courses would be a good idea.

    (out of curiosity -- what's the usual proportion of regulars to walkins? I've never been on that side of the counter)

    - K

    PS -- The one BIG no-no that one guy here apparently never learned.. do NOT, under ANY circumstances make a practice of bragging to RegularCustomer about how much you screwed CluelessWalkin out of on a trade in. Nor for that matter, do so in front of RegularCustomer. Does your rep quite a disservice... and then there go your regulars, and then there goes the black ink.
  12. Navy joe

    Navy joe Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    #4 especially. I buy from the 'net and from competitors that don't even have a store. They do stock what competitors buy in the back of their van though and they do have good prices. More importantly they are out at the matches and giving away freebies to get their name out. Not my local shops. Show up, talk yourself up at the match meeting, donate some freebies to the match awards. A 25 buck gift cert. or 5K primers is nothing you expect when you come to a weekly match. It gets folks in the store. Bonus if you shoot the match, people buy from folks like them.

    Have a range. My local shop does this, and they are the only shop I've seen have decent ammo prices to encourage shooting. 10 bucks per 50 .45 PMC, 10% off the case, usta always have a partial case in the trunk. Bonus points, offer classes. If you don't have a range take classes on field trips to a local range. Be the guy who gets outside instructors in town.
  13. shane184

    shane184 Member

    Aug 14, 2003
    One thing that drives me nuts at every store I go to is they spend all this money on glass showcases and then pile all kinds of junk on them so you can't see what they have. Takes all the fun out of browsing and lowers the possibility of something catching your eye.
  14. Josey

    Josey member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Catfish Co, KY
    Hey STOP EYEBALLING ME!! I walk into shops and they seem to like what they see. They watch every move I make. That bothers me. The next thing is to have C&R, Mil-Surp, police trade-ins and a A-OK used stock of firearms. I have walked in to buy a Colt Trooper MKIII from a shop. I left with the Trooper, a M1991A1, a 1903 and a Davis derringer. They were there and I had money. The thing that disturbs me is the sales people trying to push Glocks on newbies. I always try to suggest a J frame 38 or a K frame to novices. The shops try to force everybody into Glocks. They are OK, I still believe in small and simple, double action revolvers for beginners. I like vintage leather from Jay-Pee and other old-timers like Lawrence too.
  15. bigjim

    bigjim Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2003
  16. P95Carry

    P95Carry Moderator Emeritus

    Jan 3, 2003
    South PA, and a bit West of center!
    Much is down IMO to the local guy being HONEST .... my fella is just that .. if he don't know jack about a particular gun he says ...... he even asks me ''my opinion'' now and again (good for my ego?? .. maybe he uses good psychology!!).

    I prefer to pay a tad more and keep my local FFL in business .. he is fair and if something ain't right he'll do something about it .... plus ... cos i buy direct from him at times ... he is sweet as anything when it comes to a transfer from outa state.

    I WANT the local guys to survive ........ it's in all our interests. I will tho still get my bricks of .22 from Wally World ....... that's inevitable.:p
  17. stellarpod

    stellarpod Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    OKC, OK
    Alll good points Tamara.

    Something that one of the local shops does is to sponsor a manufacturer's "demo days". All the major manufacturers show up with their newest goodies. $3 buys a ticket to test drive virtually anything they've got and the money is donated to a local junior shooting program. Of course this requires an on-site range, which they have. Your $3 donation also puts your name in the hopper for several great door prizes at the end of it all.

    At the last one Roy Jenks showed up for S&W and entertained with history of Smith & Wesson, reading several letters that had been sent by customers for the last 150 years or so. Highly informative.

    But most importantly, this particular shop is the "go to" authority any time one of the local television or radio stations needs an "expert" on firearms related issues. And they do a great job, portraying the gun-owning community in an intelligent, positive manner.

    They're not always the cheapest place in town (although they're plenty competitive), but the fact that they take their community role as a steward of our sport seriously, makes them worth patronizing in my opinion.


  18. Monkeyleg

    Monkeyleg Member

    Dec 25, 2002
    Decatur, AL
    Tamara, I agree with just about all your points except #4.

    "4) Get involved in competitive shooting. These guys spend money; make sure your name is on every one of their lips. Sponsor matches, hand out cards, give away tee-shirts, whatever..."

    From talking with gunshop owners around here, the league shooters don't spend enough money in the shops to pay for the cost of ventilation of the range. They handload (so do I), buy their guns and accessories where they can get them the cheapest, and generally don't support the shop/range they're shooting at. Tell them they have to pay to shoot, and they'll converge on another range, promising the owners "big bucks." Doesn't happen.

    However, that may just be a function of the "cheesehead" cheap mentality up here, so take my comments for what they're worth.
  19. Quartus

    Quartus Member

    Jan 13, 2003
    Along with the "I was a Special Forces Seal REEEcon!" types, fire the young know-it-alls.

    Basic courtesy goes a long way. I don't appreciate first name familiarity from some 20-something kid. I was a sergeant at his age. A boy has to be pretty young for me to fail to call him "sir" - I expect the same from the kids.

    Offer a LEO discount - I support them and I like to do business with those who do the same. (And yes, I'm a fierce enemy of any who get too big for their britches. That's not inconsistent at all.)

    Carry quality, and price it fairly. I know you can't compete with Wally, but don't think I'm going to pay double, either.

    Know your regulars. Treat them well. Treat them special. But don't let them take over the shop.

    And don't sell every newbie a Glock or .44 magnum. I used to shop at a place that was not convenient to my home, because the first time I went in there I watched the proprietor talk a young lady out of buying a .45 for her first gun. He sent her to a larger store that had a range, with advice on getting lessons and some sensible guns to try. I like that.

    Hey, it's no mystery. I'll support my local small gunshop as much as I can afford to, if they just show me decency and honesty.
  20. Preacherman

    Preacherman Member

    Dec 20, 2002
    Louisiana, USA
    A couple of ideas from local gun stores (some of which have already been mentioned above):

    1. Have catalogs from the major distributors available for your customers to browse. Post a sign over the catalog rack saying something like "Anything you want, we'll order for cost + 5% + shipping". The 5% will really draw them, as most places charge 10% or more. You can also add a rider that if they want the gun cleaned/scoped/set up/etc., they pay for the service at regular gunsmithing prices.

    2. Have a steady supply of hot coffee, free to clients. In my favorite local gunstore, there are always two or three regulars dropping in for coffee, and they buy guns if they walk in just after a decent trade-in has hit the shop. They also bring their friends for a cup of coffee, which leads to further sales.

    3. Have premises that are as attractive as possible. Doesn't have to be super-spacious or super-clean, but well laid out, with a couple of bar stools at the counter, easy access to view guns, a well-thought-out display (i.e. black-powder stuff all together, ammo. together, LE supplies together - not everything scattered all over creation, so that finding what you want is a pain in the proverbial).

    4. Offer a private sale referral list. If a guy comes in wanting to trade in a gun that you can only afford to give (say) $100 for, and you know that on a private sale he could make $150, why not say to him "Look, for a one-time charge of $10, we'll list you, your gun, and your contact details in the shop for 30 days. All of our customers can look at the list, and you'll likely make more for your gun that way than I can give you as a trade-in." People appreciate this sort of honesty, and while it costs some profit, it creates a whole lot more goodwill. Also means that he'll come back to you to buy a new gun, as he now knows you're honest...

    5. Find out what sells in your market. This can be done by approaching the major manufacturers and distributors. They know what types/models of guns they ship to the various markets, and can tell you what's in demand, so that you know what to stock. I've seen guns linger for YEARS on gunstore shelves here because they're just not right for local shooting conditions (e.g. a .300 Win Mag is pretty much useless in the thick forest and brush of typical Louisiana deer hunting conditions, where a 100-yard shot is considered long range!).

    6. Offer training courses. A local shop co-operates with the local PD in offering CCW courses. They furnish used guns as "loaners" for those who want to take the course, but haven't decided what they want yet (this also gives newbies a chance to try out several different types and models of gun, to see which they like). They sell ammo for the course at cost price, and are at the range to help with the instruction. As part of each course, one of the gunstore employees gives a short talk on what sort of pistol/revolver is most suitable for home defence/CCW/car use/etc. This brings many of the trainees back to the store to order a gun, once they've had a chance to try out different models on the course, and hear the talk.

    7. Get involved with your local cops. A small gun shop here has a Captain from the local PD who "moonlights" there, and they always carry a small selection of duty gear, OC spray, police ammo, etc. They also offer a standard discount to LE personnel. Once word of this spreads to LE types, they appreciate it, and often will advise others (e.g. people at a crime scene who suddenly want to be able to defend themselves against future crimes) to come and visit you for a good deal. This sort of word-of-mouth recommendation is priceless.

    8. Get involved with local shooting ranges. Offer them the opportunity to order stuff at cost + 5%, if they don't have ordering facilities of their own. Offer their members the catalog purchases mentioned in (1) above. Perhaps you could display some of your products (or pictures of them) on some sort of display stand or noticeboard at the range? People who come to ranges tend to shoot a lot, and they'll notice your efforts to help and inform them.

    9. Have a newspaper article or two published. This can be done relatively inexpensively as a promotional item, and if it's in the right newspaper for your target market, it can produce good results.

    That's it for now. HTH.
  21. Ian

    Ian Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    I'm working at a pretty successful small local gun shop this summer. Some of the things that I think really help keep them afloat are:

    * Not just one gunsmith, but five. And excellent ones at that. The shop does any gunsmithing money can buy, up to and including building custom guns up from receivers.

    * Personal service. We know most repeat clients by name, and give the really good clients discounts on most stuff.

    * We cater to wealthy clients. The money from selling $5,000 custom 1911s and $7-$10,000 custom .50 BMGs allows the shop to stock items for small purchasers without relying on them to stay in business. Furthermore, the shop can distance itself from megastores like Walmart by stocking high-end gear that can't be found elsewhere. The cheapest scopes we have, for example, and Leupolds. Most of our scopes at the moment are Swarovskis and Nightforces.

    * The owner has contacts in serious competitive circles and groups like Safari Club International. Through those, he can attract a good number of good customers.

    * The shop also offers a number of shooting courses, taught by a one of Cooper's master instructors. These are another way to bring in money to support other aspects of the business.

    * Treat every customer like they're going to buy your best item. We have broke-looking, grungy types come in,m browse around, and then pull out cash for a serious gun. Some of these people have become regulars. If they'd been treated like nuisances when they first came in, the shop would have lost good customers.

    * Give customers what they want. Everyone at the shop carries a 1911, and literally half our pistol inventory is 1911s. If someone comes in looking for "a good pistol," we go right to the 1911s, and usually sell one. But if someone comes in specifically wanting a Glock or Beretta or something else, we'll sell them one. If they are set on buying some crummy gun, we'll get it for them without trying to push something we think is better.

    * Have a neat shop! The place I work has pictures, C&R guns, holster rigs, African trophies, and other neat paraphanalia up on the walls. We've got a semi-auto 1919 on a tripod by the door (it may sell eventually, but it's mostly there for looks). Completed custom guns get set out on the couters for people to look at. It makes people much more interested in coming to the shop.

    Something that I think the shop could improve on:

    * Organization. If you order a part/gun/holster or two or three every day for different people, they add up really quickly. You must have a good system in place to keep track of orders, store them when they arrive, and notify customers to pick them up. Losing someone's part after a month-long wait hurts the business.
  22. seeker_two

    seeker_two Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    Deep in the Heart of the Lone Star State (TX)
    Tamara: You've just described three of my favorite gun stores...

    Buffalo Sporting Goods, Buffalo TX
    Burdett & Sons, College Station TX
    Sportsman Guns, Madisonville TX

    I would have included my fourth favorite (Praco Gun & Pawn, Waco TX), but they don't have an on-site gunsmith (although they can recommend a few good ones).

    I'm with you on this one...:D
  23. Dr.Rob

    Dr.Rob Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2002
    Centennial, CO
    1. customer service.. ask if I want to see something, treat me with respect, be friendly.

    2. special orders and catalogs. If you don't have it tell me you'll be happy to get it.
  24. telewinz

    telewinz Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    What we have lacked in my area for years (15+) is fair trade-in prices! Other than a local pawn shop (pretty fair) there has been a shortage of used firearms. Within the last year I went to one shop that had NO used guns at all. I asked the owner why not and he said " we get so few trade-ins that the staff buys them". Now we have a Cabela's being built, and the local gun shops are starting to sweat it out. They are spending their money on billboard space and claiming a large inventory of firearms for my purchasing pleasure (still no used firearms). It's too little too late! I'll visit Cabela's but stay with my local pawnshop, do to the nature of his business I doubt that he will be affected by Cabela's. All I ask of a gunshop is a fair trade-in price for the gun I purchased from them and a selection of good used guns, all the rest of Tamara's list I can live without. "See Honey, I'm easy to get along with".:D
  25. Morgan

    Morgan Member

    Dec 30, 2002
    Ian - where 'ya working?

    I get almost everything from Tom & Joe's in Wheat Ridge, as Tom is friendly, knows what he's talking about, and will order anything for you. He treats everyone well, and loyal customers just a bit better. A tiny little store, but I just love to drop in and shoot the bull with him - and I often end up spending $500+ when I do.
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