Article courtesy of Patrick Shay, Director of Retail Development, National Shooting Sports Foundation
With the winter holidays approaching at a rapid pace, gift buying is about to be in full swing. Traffic for nearly every retailer across the country will pick up exponentially. That certainly includes you, the firearms retailer, but you have some disadvantages in maximizing the cash flow this season brings compared to more mainstream businesses like clothing and toy retailers.
For one, stores like Macy’s, Toy’s-R-Us and Wal-Mart have immense brand recognition. They also have advertising budgets you don’t have. But that doesn’t mean you should be left out of the gift-buying frenzy that’s about to begin. Your task: Reach the non-firearms consumer and provide them a way to shop with you instead of the big-box home improvement or fashion store.
How? Gift cards.
Gift cards solve a lot of issues for a lot of people, but especially for people who are not “gun people.” Let’s say one of your regular customers, Bill, is an enthusiastic 3-Gun competitor in his late 20s. His family likely knows about his hobby, but they’re not recreational shooters themselves, so a trip to a gun store can be intimidating and bewildering for them because they really don’t know what Bill wants or needs to compete or they are generally unfamiliar with firearms and their accessories. Think a gift card would be a great idea? You bet it would!
Really, the scenarios appropriate for gift cards are nearly limitless. That should tell you that these can be much more than just another item you sell.
Too many stores put up only a simple tent card at the cash register counter and consider the job done. But real and dedicated advertising can truly drive gift card sales as a profit center unto themselves.
As we’ve just discussed, it allows non-shooting consumers a way to purchase from you instead of someone else. Gift cards are easy. The trick, of course, is to let those non-shooting consumers know you exist. That can and should include an advertising campaign and sales approach different from your normal methods.
Consider these tactics:
- Ads should specifically be about your gift cards. Remember, firearms are intimidating things to many people. Gift cards aren’t. Emphasizing the gift cards and your customer service while generalizing your merchandise can drive new customers to your store and have them look forward to the experience.
- Target your gift card ads to the non-shooting audience. That could be ad placement in an area of the local newspaper different from your usual spot (Arts & Entertainment versus the Sports section), a radio spot during the local high school football games, and even something as high-profile as a billboard.
- You have to let people who are unaware of your business discover who and where you are and plant the idea in their head that you are a place that can help satisfy their gift giving list.
Make your gift cards available not just for in-store purchase, but via your company website and by taking orders over the phone and mailing out the cards.
Brisk gift card sales can greatly boost cash flow during these busy holiday months, which can help offset the cost of heavy inventory buys you made to meet holiday buying demands. Too, some stores provide incentives to use them during certain times or before certain dates, in order to maximize product turn rates prior to taking inventories. (Note: The issuance and redemption of gift cards and gift certificates are subject to federal and various state consumer protection laws. Further information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s website and by contacting the Office of the Attorney General in the state where the retailer is located. It is also advisable to consult competent legal counsel familiar with federal and state consumer protection laws to assist in retail business planning.)
Finally, when your store makes a concerted effort to reach out to non-shooting consumers, you have the unprecedented opportunity to take them from “I’ve never been in a gun store before” to “Maybe I’ll sign up for a shooting lesson.” Be friendly to the mom who comes into the store and says she wants a gift certificate for Uncle Albert. Find out what shooting sports Uncle Albert likes to shoot, so you can guide mom to a card of the right amount, and remember to provide them with your store safety literature, range membership information and anything else that demonstrates you’re an asset to your community. In that manner, your gift cards become about far more than what someone finds under the tree this year.
Tip: Whether you’re selling a gift card over the counter or sending it through the mail, including a low-cost, decorative gift card box makes a nice impression that non-traditional customers will appreciate. It not only looks nice, it gives that person something to wrap, rather than just stick in an envelope.
Did You Know?
NSSF partners with a company dedicated to providing payment solutions to the firearms industry. In addition to swipe-card mobile applications, software for recurring payments such as membership or range fees, electronic check deposit and wireless payment options for gun show use, this company can also offer a wide variety of gift and loyalty card services to fit your needs. Learn more here, then log in to the member’s only side of nssf.org now to discover all this NSSF business partner has to offer.