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The Digital Transformation of Firearms Commerce

Monday, March 20, 2017 — Saying it isn’t so didn’t stop Cabela’s from trying to sell out to Bass Pro Shops. And yet that transformation is running into delay after delay. Why? One observation is that gun sales are grinding to a slow crawl. Sports Chalet and Sports Authority have bellied up. Big box Big 5 has closed five of its stores in Texas, and other sales slumping locations have impacted up to 60% of it 250 stores, according to the trade publication Sporting Goods Business. While Bass Pro sought the Cabela’s opportunity, it still hasn’t been able to make a final decision and insiders say it’s not about the money, it’s about the uncertainty of the overall outdoors market, especially guns and gun-related products, something small mom and pop gun shops learned long ago when the big box sporters took over the majority of the outdoor market by discounting merchandise.

Now comes the huge question about post-Trump dipping gun sales. Gun consumers bought up everything in sight during the Obama years and, because of gangbangers, a seeming rape epidemic, and a variety of personal assaults including carjackings, small pistols for self-protection made up for the over-saturation of the AR rifle market. Now retailing anything has become passé as internet sellers are slowly but surely driving away the convenience of shopping center malls. Many, if not most, gun shops now bolster their store location efforts with their own websites a kind of spy-before-you-buy offerings. The emergence of online gun sales led prominently by GunBroker.com, GunsAmerica.com, and a few lesser competitive efforts have sparked yet another thought that have anti-gunners going nuts: gun retailers escaping the burden of choking overhead to either sell guns via the internet or giving birth to the firearms commerce middleman, the background check transfer merchant.

Today’s Top Story is just one example of a still small but growing opportunity to remain in the gun business, et al, while leaving the costs to remaining brick-and-mortar traditionalists. Going online to any gun maker’s or gun seller’s website, checking publications such as GunProPlus.com, and any of the many other gun media websites will reveal information on new products as they emerge, means a prospective buyer need never leave home to buy a gun. That method, of course, also eliminates the desire to handle a gun prior to purchase, the age-old selling practice that allowed independent dealers to display their wares to provide consumers with a plethora of choices. And then there’s this: Amazon.com. The massive online retailer is now pressing even Walmart and, while Amazon has been selling airguns for years, what’s to keep Jeff Bezos from becoming an online firearms mass transfer vendor, too?

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