What we learned as a vendor at our first gun show
As a vendor selling custom pistol grips with “bling”, targeted specifically for women, we were in for a surprise at our first gun show. Men do like to shop! They will walk around for hours looking at guns, knives, parts, ammo, gear and everything arms related. They buy too … from our observation, mostly in cash. They come out of the woodwork, literally, here in mid Michigan. At one glance, the show reminds us why we got into business. Hardly anyone here is catering to women. Sure, there’s the occasional pink grip and some cammo t shirts (made in China) but the whole setting is not targeted to women. Men don’t mind shopping out of plastic storage bins, cardboard boxes, and old wooden army cases, and that’s what’s here. A sizable majority of vendors don’t even have signs. This is more like a flee market. Guys just don’t care … as long as it’s not a shopping mall.
There we were with a trendy black fitted table cloth with our logo across the front, custom pistol grips with sparkling Swarovski rhinestones positioned on organza white bags with feathers around the top edge, and a small lit up Christmas tree since it’s nearly Christmas. We were also sporting a Waterford crystal bowl with Ghirardelli Chocolates. Participants looked at us like we were crazy. We stuck out like a sore thumb. People asked us if we were selling candy. “No, the candy is free,” we replied dumbfounded. They just didn’t get us.
We thought for sure that women would like and purchase the our grips. That’s when it hit us – women don’t normally buy stuff when their husbands are around and vice versa. That’s why a wife will pull out a new dress and reply, “Oh, this old thing. I haven’t worn it for a long time”. Guys say the same type of thing about guns and shooting supplies. One nice lady even confirmed our theory by whispering, “I’ll be back tomorrow to buy a set,” while her husband strolled on ahead.
We noticed another issue that caught our attention. Men are at gun shows to shop while women aren’t and are following along, just trying to get through it. Many women walked right by our table not even looking our way to see what we had to offer. They weren’t engaged and weren’t shopping. It’s just the opposite at a mall; men are just trying to get through it anyway possible. To sell to customers they need to be engaged. They need to be looking and shopping. If they aren’t, you’re just wasting time and money.
To reach women, we increased our odds dramatically with a greeting. With a simple greeting, both men and women would stop, approach our table, and look and ask about our products. The “free” chocolate helped lure more than a few people our way and we were the only table giving anything away for free. Now our shoppers were engaged, handling our unique “grips with bling” and inquiring about price, colors and availability. Getting your product into a potential customer’s hand is half way to a sale. Especially in our case, selling pistol grips with rhinestones that catch the light and a woman’s eye.
What would Help Selling to Women at Gun Shows?
First of all, the gun show manager/promoter should set an area specifically for women. Group all women’s products together such as: conceal carry purses, clothing, fashionable ear and eye protection, etc. That would get women engaged and separated from their husbands and allow both genders to shop freely. With all the women shooters and hunters we’re surprised this hasn’t happened yet.
The retailers need to target women with their exhibits. No woman likes shopping out of old cardboard boxes and industrial plastic bins. Attractive displays and signage would help. Haven’t any of these guys been to a trade show? It’s a whole different atmosphere, well organized, clean, good signage and free stuff. Ditch the men’s club format at gun shows and more women will come out and spend. Because we all know, women love to shop!