By Carolee Anita Boyles
If you’ve ever remodeled your home, you already know that sometimes remodeling is harder than building from scratch. It’s the same with shooting ranges: adding a range to an existing operation presents a whole set of unique challenges.
Retailers who are considering adding a range to their existing stores will want to take note of B.A. Stear’s seminar on Construction Tips for Adding a Range to an Existing Building at the NSSF Range-Retailer Business Expo next month in Milwaukee, Wisc. This is one of many seminars at the Expo designed to help retailers and ranges stay competitive in their markets and raise the standard of the customer experience.
Stear is the founder of Shoot Indoors Franchising, an indoor shooting range franchise with four locations headquartered in Denver, Colo. His affiliated company, TAPER-range, also uses its own patented range design to shrink the range footprint and reduce startup costs without impacting the customer’s shooting experience.
“We operate ranges a little different from most people,” Stear said. “We run indoor range franchises that are only ranges; we don’t sell firearms at all. They’re very small operations; we’ll have 10 to 12 lane ranges; they are high efficiency, high volume ranges. We have minimum staff; we only average 3.5 people on staff at any given time.”
Stear said his range franchises cater to the recreational shooting and entertainment market.
“We’re similar to the Topgolf model,” he said. “People who go to Topgolf aren’t necessarily golfers, but they have fun for an hour. We’re doing that for the shooting industry. People come for corporate events or birthday parties and have fun for an hour. We partner up with all the gun shops in the area, and we send business back and forth all the time.”
Stear situates his ranges in high-population areas so they’re convenient to his core market.
“We get our ranges opened up quickly in high-population areas,” he said. “That introduces people to the sport out of convenience. If the range is close, we know they’ll use it. If it’s far away, they just don’t use it that frequently.”
Stear will be talking about this and more during his presentation on indoor range construction at the NSSF Range-Retailer Business Expo next month along with Todd Heirls from ArcWest Architects.
“What we typically do is find an existing building and retrofit it as a shooting range,” he said. “Constructing a range inside an existing building is very challenging because you’re moving big beams and wide paneling through a three-foot-wide doorway. If it’s a new building, you can just drive the forklift to the middle of the property and drop something on the ground. When you’re working in an existing building it turns into a Tetris game where you’re trying to get these funny shaped objects through small openings and get things to fit in really tight spaces.”
His second presentation, Stear said, is on Google reviews.
“We’ve noticed that Google reviews are extremely important in this industry,” he said. “There are some really simple ways of requesting that a customer leaves a good review. By tying into the Point-of-Sale System you can augment that process. When a customer comes onto the range or signs the waiver, you’re able to have an email sent automatically to that customer to leave us good feedback if they had a good time. We’ve noticed that by using those automated systems that we see seven to eight times more Google reviews than we do when we organically ask people.” Automatic messages are a huge game changer and a way of getting a lot of reviews quickly, particularly when you’re a startup.
“Getting as many views as quickly as you can is super important to establish a foothold in your community,” Stear said.
Learn from the Pros at the Range-Retailer Expo
If you’re a startup business, Stear said, the Expo can really help open your eyes to what’s available in the industry and who the current industry leaders are.
“You’ll be learning from the pros,” he said. “You’re going to find connections, new technology and things you didn’t know existed. You’ll help accelerate your business model and find ways to save money and cut expenses.”
If you’ve been in the business a while, Stear said, the Expo is all about networking.
“It’s about finding people who are experiencing the same problems as you, and who have already figured out how to overcome these problems. You can form peer groups so that when you have a problem you know who to call. It’s all about expanding your network and continuing to learn.”
If you’re in the exploratory or startup stages of building a range-retail business or an existing business, join NSSF and your industry colleagues in Milwaukee July 10-12 for the NSSF Range-Retailer Business Expo. For agenda, registration and exhibitor information, visit the Expo’s website.