With Gander Mountian going out of business and rebranding to Gander Outdoors as well as sporting goods giant Cabela’s being sold recently, one has to stop and ask, what are they doing wrong? I think they are failing shooters and not because of price, but selection.
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into a big box sporting goods store in search of a piece or part that I need for a review or gun build only to leave the store empty handed. This happens far too often where I don’t have something I need and don’t much care about the brand, model, or other particulars, so I set out on a mission. Nine times out of ten I leave the store empty handed even though I entered the building with the intention of spending money.
A great example of this is I went out in search of some 34mm rings to mate the Bushnell HDMRII that I have on loan (and will probably purchase) to the Bergara B14 HMR that is also on loan. I went to no less than three separate retailers in search of ANY 34mm rings so I could get out on the range the next day. Not only did they not have a single set of 34mm rings, but the employees at each one of the stores acted as though I was insane for asking for the size. It isn’t that I don’t want to spend my dollars locally, just that they don’t ever seem to have what I need.
It seems as though these stores have the shelves stocked by buyers that either doesn’t know much about shooting or nothing at all. A quick glance around just about any sporting goods store that clearly has a focus on firearms and it is easy to spot the trend from the aisles full of product that ranges from pure crap to mediocre at best.
I get it though, the general gun buying public doesn’t care to spend a bit more on specialized parts, nice scopes and rings, and firearms that might be a bit outside the norm.
My friends that work for retailers that sell both the mass market junk that big box stores have become so fond of, as well as the more specialized and higher end product, have a unique perspective. They tell me that customers that talk to a sales person with a sound knowledge base and the ability to articulate why spending a bit more on something is a good idea, they typically opt to pay a bit more for the better product. This begs the question if big box retailers hired employees based on knowing their stuff instead of paying so many dollars an hour to whatever warm body shows up reliably, would they sell more good product and drive the need to stock higher end product?
I tend to believe that if big box stores hired staff that knows more that what they learned back in Nam or from Xbox, they might move the mid-level product more than the bargain junk that fills their shelves. Customer education is the number one tool of retail in my opinion and one that is often totally ignored.
I want to know what you think. Do you spend most of your gun dollars at physical stores or do you shop online mostly like I do? Do you even bother going into the local big box stores?