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Survival of the Mom and Pop Gun Shop

Mom and pop brick and mortar style gun shops slash stores have been hurting for a lot of years now.

In fact, many of these small business operations have been closing up shop for good in the past couple of years, due to an extreme combination of online and big box retailer competition.

Before I continue, I just want to be clear that I am not speaking for every location. Some locations can still make a killing with a small gun shop operation, especially in areas where the big box stores have no desire to build, due to small populations and other factors.

I want this post to be a living breathing post, meaning that I will continue to update it when different pieces of information pertaining to the overall health of brick and mortar gun shops arise.

I would also like to get information from all of you in the comment section below pertaining to your own local mom and pop gun stores, since I am only one man, and pretty much in only one location, so I obviously cannot speak on the behalf of this subject for the entire country.

With all that being said, if things don’t change soon, we are only going to see more and more gun shop closures happening at a faster rate.

Walmart recently kowtowing to the powers that be for some political correctness brownie points is only a ruse, because Walmart is the king of making money, and all they are doing in the end is changing the names of a few of their products and categories just to appease the folks who don’t even shop in there store to begin with.

So banking on Walmart pulling out of the handgun game is just a temporary reprieve, a band-aid if you will, and this event will not bring your gun shop back in black if you don’t start making drastic changes to the way you operate your business.

I won’t hide reality from you either to spare your feelings, because you may not survive no matter how many changes you implement.

A lot of folks started to clear out their inventory, and are now hoping that folks will come in and just order guns they want. A form of drop-shipping if you will, which can work, but don’t get your hopes up.

Most folks just want to come in to handle the gun they are interested in, and then go buy it online for much cheaper after they used you. Many of you have experienced this firsthand, and it really really sucks… but such is the life of a mom and pop brick and mortar gun shop owner.

Getting rid of your inventory with the hopes that people will just order guns from you without handling them first, and even paying you upfront is more or less a hope and a dream, and this very rarely ever works out the way you think it will.

I get calls almost daily asking if I have such and such gun in stock?

Then I politely inform the potential customer on the other end of the line that we do not stock any non-custom weaponry, but we’d be happy to order it for you if you’d like to purchase it through us, and it will be here in 2 or 3 days… then some silence… then: “That’s okay, I was just calling to see if you had one in stock, so I can see it and feel it in my hand first”.

Yep, some of them actually tell you that, where as many will not, and just make up some other excuse as to why they are all of a sudden not interested in the gun anymore.

A lot of us gun shop owners have experienced this, and it’s more or less a common occurrence for us now these days.

Then you have the distributor conundrum. Where ole Bob, your favorite distributor expects you to purchase 10 of one manufacturer and model firearm just to get a good deal.

You explain to ole Bob that you can’t make that purchase because those guns will sit on your store shelves until the cows “literally” come home.

Bob then informs you that there is nothing he can do, and you wind up ordering none, where as the big box store down the street has 20 of those very same guns in stock, but at much lower prices than you could ever sell them for.

Now let’s discuss the classroom warrior, the gun shop owner who believes that he or she can just teach classes, whether they be concealed carry classes, security guard classes, women self-defense classes, and too many more to spew off.

Yes, classes can be very lucrative, because there is very little cost involved with teaching them, and time and space is pretty much the only thing you’ll be giving up in the process.

The problem with classes is that the barrier to entry is very low, so everyone can pretty much teach them. Then you have the race-to-the-bottom issue, which is where everyone competes in price with one another, putting the classes at the coveted “free” category in some places in your area. Great for the customer… absolutely terrible for the gun store owner.

How do they offer free classes you may ask?

Well, that’s simple. Most of them aren’t actually free. They say free, but you’ll have to buy their ammunition, or pay their range fee, or they’ll just up-sell their customers once they get into the store to take the class.

I know… terrible right?

But the consumer actually falls for this crap, because “free” really looks good on marketing materials.

Then we have gun transfers.

Ever since the dawn of online gun buying and selling platforms, the local mom and pop gun shop has been looking for ways to make money to stay in business.

The gun transfer fee has been keeping many of these operations afloat, albeit nothing like the old glory days before online gun buying and selling platforms existed of course… but they do help.

Just like with the gun related classes commando, gun transfers have such a low barrier to entry, and everyone and their mother seems to be doing them.

In just a 5 mile radius search of my zip code on Gun Broker’s Federal Firearms Licensee locator, I found a whopping 13 individuals and counting who are licensed to conduct firearm transfers.

And no, not all of these individuals have traditional storefronts. Some of them are facilitating transfers out of their own houses, which you guest it… allows them the ability to charge dirt cheap prices for transfers, because in the end, they have little to no overhead to worry about.

So just like the class scheme I mentioned above, you have the dreaded race to the bottom in gun transfer fees across the board.

One guys sees the other girl offering transfers at $50.00, they charge $45.00, and then Bob sees that guy charging $45.00, they charge $40.00, and down and down it goes… to the point where you would have to be transferring hundreds of guns per month just to pay your shops light bill.

There is so much more to discuss, but this article has gone on long enough for now. As mentioned above, I want this to be a living breathing post, so please sound off in the comment section below as to what is going on in your local area as for as mom and pop gun shops are concerned.

If you own a gun shop, please tell us what you’ve been doing to survive?

Oh, and before I end it here, what do you think about charging potential customers $5.00 to handle a gun you have in stock, would that be fair? Would it fly with the customers? If they are most likely going to buy it somewhere else, does it really matter if they get upset?

Ha ha, just a thought, but let me know what you think, and please let me know of some other fun ways we could possibly make a few bucks in this new day and age of gun wheeling and dealing?

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