At the Corner of the Constitution and Capitalism
From widgets to 1,000-yard rated firearms, customers vote with their wallet. The cash register “ka-chings,” the customer smiles, and you think “I have to make more of those.” At some inevitable point, sales of an item fall off, the customer grumbles a bit, and you look around thinking, “What else have I got to put out?”
We take our firearms seriously, not only because of their capabilities, but also because of their relationship to the Second Amendment. The vast majority of headlines for the past 18 months or so have been driven by pro and con arguments over law and politics.
But if you look in between the headlines, you’ll see the capitalism component changing the shape, handling, and even the color of firearms – changes in response to consumer interpretations of legal restrictions and shifting market demographics.
To the manufacturer, the catalyst for design modifications perhaps matters less than if the modifications are actually accomplished. When product sales drop – for whatever reason – the successful manufacturer heads down the hallway to the design engineers and says “Give me something new.” Teams assemble, market research gets conducted, legal is consulted as necessary, management then says “Fast track it,” and project managers go on overtime.
And thus, it has been in these months of high political drama that pink and purple, yellow, and even neon green firearms, grips, and all sorts of related paraphernalia became part of the manufacturer offerings…As did a modification somewhere between a grip and a stock…As did stripped down features. From both of these two has now emerged a cleaner, sleeker design line.
In the words of Greg Staunton for Shooting Industry Magazine, “Seasoned handgun owners and firearms dealers, meet the next generation of gun owners – they’re younger, professional, tech-savvy and increasingly female.”
Should we go so far as to say that the feature restrictions coming out of legislatures have intersected with trending consumer demand, resulting in the next generation of firearm?
Analyzed on an annual basis, NICS background checks have risen steadily for years. Reports from publicly-traded FFLs continue to boast increased revenues, stock price increases, and dividends on stocks. To what extent will that sustain? We don’t know…we’re just your friendly compliance team!
To what can we attribute these numbers?
The U.S. population is steadily growing. The Baby Boomer domination of the 25-50 year old demographic is now shooting upwards past 55, opening up a less homogenous market of over-21ers. We’re approaching 15-years of military deployments in the Middle East, while the percentage of Veterans serving in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam has decreased. And, it’s not just that there are more female consumers – there are more female Veteran consumers.
These population and specialty consumer demographics have been steadily shifting over the course of the past so many years, while, seemingly overnight, the 2013 legislative season brought us significant restrictions in major market segments like New York and Connecticut. Add to this mix the pending lawsuits in NY, CT, MD, and CO, and the messaging of national organizations around those laws and lawsuits, and it’s a trifecta of issue repetition that advertising could not accomplish.
So what of these new guns, and will they be market restricted?
Various manufacturers elected to design new firearms for consumers in restricted markets, positioning firearms for specific states – in another new twist on firearms manufacturing. There is, of course, no reason why a consumer who likes a particular firearm with less features, a different design line, or accessories than might be permitted in a less-restrictive state, couldn’t purchase the specially-designed firearm.
And then there is that glimpse into the future. If any of these state-specific firearms are strong sellers, they may well continue to be offered.
Welcome to the intersection of the Constitution and capitalism.