By Matt Pillar, senior executive editor, Innovative Retail Technologies
Multifunctional POS and tight inventory controls power the gun lover’s destination store Thunderbird Firearms Academy.
Firearms retailers are enjoying banner sales. Since May of 2015, the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) has marked new records set for the most background checks conducted in a day, month, and year. That’s an important barometer for gun sales, because those background checks are required each time an FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealer conducts a firearms transaction. April 2016 marked the 12th straight month of record sales for the industry, and despite — or perhaps fueled by — a politically charged national debate, gun sales show no sign of a slowdown.
This recent string of success doesn’t come without toil on the part of firearms retailers, however. Gun stores operate under constant pressure from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), whose oversight of the industry means the feds keep a close watch on transaction records. Tight inventory control is paramount to sustainable operations.
That’s not lost on Ryan Pennock, a longtime firearms retailer and owner of the new $7.5 million Thunderbird Firearms Academy in Wichita, KS. Pennock’s state-of-the-art store offers 5,300 square feet stocked to the rafters with guns, plus 22,000 square feet of climate-controlled shooting lanes and classrooms that off er patrons a “try before you buy” experience and firearms training for beginners to advanced marksmen. Tracking the inventory moving in, out, and around his facility is a central requirement of his Celerant-powered Stratus Retail platform.
Significant Expansion Drives Customer Growth
Pennock’s store wasn’t always a destination for what he calls the “gun owner 2.0.” The new facility opened in 2015, and its development was fueled by the changing face of America’s firearms buyer. “The new gun buyer has an entirely different requirement from those we served a few years ago,” he says, alluding to the small, dark, old-boys-club feel of the traditional gun shop. “We’re seeing significantly more millennial buyers, women, and people who weren’t raised in gun culture households. Their needs are different. They need education and training, and they want a brighter, cleaner, more aesthetically pleasing gun purchasing experience,” he says.
The gun owner 2.0, says Pennock, is an information-driven consumer with spending power. “Many of our new customers have researched firearms extensively but have never handled or fired one.” The new facility’s shooting range allows his trained staff to off er demonstrations and training, pairing the customer’s acquired knowledge with hands-on experience. “Customers aren’t looking for us to sell them what we want to sell or to buy a gun for the sake of having one. They’re seeking advice to ensure we match the application of their needs to the gun they buy. And they expect a relationship that extends beyond the purchase.”
Pennock says retail systems from Celerant have helped create that atmosphere, beginning with fundamentals like transaction speed and merchandising and extending to CRM. “Within the first few weeks of opening, we were able to begin capturing customer information and building a database in Stratus, which gives us quick access to customer data for promotions and mailers. We send Christmas cards and training class information to our customers, for example, and those gestures are very well received.” They also drive sales of the Academy’s training and range services, sales of which are also supported by Celerant.
Celerant effectively supports three businesses within one building at Thunderbird: retail sales, professional training, and range services. “Each business unit stands on its own, and we take the training and range services as seriously as retail sales. There’s no customer that can’t benefit from more training to lead safer lives with their firearm,” says Pennock. “Customers can schedule and pay for classes using our online interface, so it’s vital that we have real-time visibility into online sales at the POS because many customers want to make on-site purchases when they come into the store for class.”
Celerant’s taxonomy allows Thunderbird to analyze activity and revenue in each business unit and get a holistic understanding of what each unit is doing. The vendor’s range module — new to the Stratus offering — manages efficient and accurate scheduling of the retailer’s shooting range and provides reporting metrics on the back end. “The range module incorporates training, online class registration, assignment and scheduling, and asset tracking, which is important for managing the store-owned firearms we distribute for classes,” says Pennock. “Class rosters are self-propagated and tied to the customer record, and we can procure and assign specific instructors as classes fill. That integration eliminates manual work and prohibits us from overselling range and class time.”…