There’s no sugarcoating it – retail is a tough business. Between the rising costs of physical space, inventory and employees, fickle customers and seasonal consumer spending, the growth of online shopping and low barriers of entry for local competitors, finding success as a brick-and-mortar retailer can be difficult.
As a firearms retailer, your business is dependent on selling guns, ammunition and other shooting accessories, commonly by way of a point of sale (POS) system. However, there’s more to operating a retail FFL than processing customer transactions. From managing distributors to tracking inventory to monitoring firearm compliance, running a firearms retail business is complex and often relies on technology to execute such tasks. But rather than use different software for each job, what if your POS could do it all?
Compared to traditional registers, an integrated POS enables retailers to increase operational efficiencies that can save you and your retail FFL business precious time and money.
Perhaps the most critical responsibility of any retailer is inventory control. After all, not having enough inventory means you run the risk of losing sales while having too much inventory can create additional costs.
In the firearms industry, inventory is typically supplied by distributors. A retail FFL will place an order for specific products with a distributor who pulls from their available inventory provided by manufacturers. Once the order arrives, the retailer must inventory and barcode all products before they go out onto the floor to be sold. While the process sounds simple enough, anyone involved in ordering and merchandising knows it can be a time-consuming effort.
With an integrated POS, inventory can be managed directly from your register with in-store product availability and live distributor feeds for direct ordering and drop shipping. Products can also be placed on auto-replenishment to prevent costly stockouts and overstocking. You can even tie in your retail ecommerce webstore to in-store and distributor inventories to cater to both in-person and online customers both locally and nationally.
Unique to firearm retailers, FFLs must operate in accordance with ATF regulations for acquiring, storing and disposing (via transfer or sale) of firearms with a bound book and various ATF Forms.
When new inventory arrives, firearms must be acquired into a bound book. While some FFLs still use paper records, most use an electronic bound book to enter required firearm information. The same goes for Form 4473s, which firearm transferees/buyers must complete prior to a background check and taking possession of a firearm. While this compliance software can typically interact with a POS, they are often separate technologies provided by different companies.
Using an integrated POS, sales and compliance are connected for a seamless transaction. From the register, a user can scan a barcode or select a firearm from the FFL bound book, triggering a customer Form 4473. The customer is then given a code to complete the 4473 at a remote kiosk. Upon its completion and background check approval, the firearm disposition is updated and payment collected. Throughout the process, entered information is automatically checked for accuracy and common errors to lower compliance risk while electronic storage (with an ATF variance) reduces paper and storage costs while keeping critical documents protected.
While every retailer needs inventory to sell and FFLs must follow local, state and federal laws to stay ATF compliant, there is no business without customers. But retail success is about more than simply getting people in your doors or to visit your website – you must engage with them, too.
It’s not enough to offer products at reasonable prices with satisfactory customer service, retailers must provide a personalized retail experience. By driving relevant and contextual sales, retailers can build customer loyalty to drive conversions and improve customer lifetime value – or the value of a customer to a brand over the duration of a relationship. To do so requires leveraging customer data.
With an integrated POS, customer contact information and purchase habits can be captured and tracked to build detailed customer relationship management (CRM) profiles. These customer profiles can then be used to create loyalty/membership programs and targeted marketing campaigns to easily generate traffic, repeat sales and recurring revenue opportunities.
Considering the many challenges firearm retailers face in managing supply chains, compliance and customers, why work harder when you can leverage technology to work smarter? Combining a point of sale system with an electronic bound book, ecommerce webstore and CRM, an integrated POS – like Orchid POS™ – offers an efficient FFL management solution to save retail FFLs time and money.