Why Did Guns Sell So Well on Black Friday?

The average shopper spent $407 over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation. And many of these purchases were guns.

"Firearms have taken their place among the basket of mainstream durable goods that consumers look to purchase on Black Friday," says P. James Debney, president of Smith & Wesson Holdings (NASDAQ: SWHC  ) during the company's Dec. 10 quarterly earnings call. Indeed, Black Friday was the sixth highest single day for National Instant Check System background checks (NICS) since the program begin 1998.  

Gun-buying bonanza

There are a few factors that make Black Friday a hot gun-selling weekend. The Thanksgiving holiday invokes traditions of hunting that, in turn, inspires people to try it themselves. And hunting is increasingly becoming a family event. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of female hunters has increased 25%. Now, 11% of the 13.7 million U.S. hunters are women, according to the U.S. Census. 

During the holiday weekend, people are more receptive to buy higher-ticket items, such as firearms. While guns may not seem like an impulse purchase, sales increasingly happen because husbands want to share their hobby with their wives. And since they are both in the store shopping for gifts, they migrate to the gun counter.

"I don't think there is anyone who has ever shot a rimfire [firing cartridge] for the first time in their life [who then] didn't turn around with a huge smile on their face because it was so much fun," says Michael Fifer, CEO of the gun manufacturer Sturm Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR  ) during a Nov. 8 call with analysts. Husbands, particularly, want their wives and friends to experience that same enjoyment.

Guns are also popular gifts, though primarily among those who already own them. Some 20% of gun owners own 65% of the 270 million firearms owned by civilians, according to various firearm data. 

Tough yearly comparisons 

Still, the gun industry has had to contend with record sales in 2012, driven by fears of stronger gun laws in response to the presidential election and Sandy Hook tragedy. This drop-off has been most notable in mid-priced firearms, and the modern sporting rifle categories. The lower and higher-end guns remain in demand, says Sturm Ruger's Fifer. "Somebody who's selling a $600 gun is still probably doing strong and who is selling $1,400 and up like ours is still doing strong." 

This tough year-over-year comparison has also affected quarterly earnings among gun retailers, particularly Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS  ) and Cabela's (NYSE: CAB  ) . As a result, these retailers have cut down on product assortment and increased their offerings of gun-related categories, such as camouflage clothing and outdoor accessories. 

Shooting buddy for life

While Black Friday may result in overwhelmed staff, both new and old gun owners expect hands-on and knowledgable service. In fact, 23% of Cabela's employees work behind the gun counter. These workers must marry the right gun to the right buyer.

Most husbands, for instance, come in wanting their wives to buy their favorite model, such as centerfires, says Sturm Ruger's Fifer. ""I try to tell them, What you are looking for is not to get your spouse a gun and that's it. But what you are looking to create a shooting buddy for life. Their first firearm should be one that has modest noise, modest or no recoil, and is just sheer fun to shoot."

Now, it's expected that gun sales will be strong in 2014. Sturm Ruger reports that it has 1.8 million units on order which it claims is a "ridiculous" number compared to the typical 300,000. "Next year is going to be an election year," says Sturm Ruger's Fifer. "And I am sure politicians will go at it on both sides and they'll talk about guns and that will spur gun sales again." 

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Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 4:09 AM, VikingBear wrote:

    Anything that puts more guns in the hands of the good citizens is fine by me.

    Any enforcement tactic that puts more of the violent offenders in custody for longer times, and denies them access to possess ANY KIND OF WEAPON should be carefully examined. Mandatory sentences for weapons use might be a good place to start.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 11:23 AM, jdstrand wrote:

    As far a gun sales, to law abiding citizens..

    Look at the S. F. Bay Area.

    Every night on the news, shooting in Oakland, Richmond, East Palo Alto, Antioch and Vallejo.

    Humm, I wonder why people are prejudice and buying guns,to protect our borders like our

    Washington "leadership"...

    jd

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 12:14 PM, john1959 wrote:

    well from what i see we have a real problem with the American people that's thinking we can't trust our Government from trying to take our rights to have and own firearms so what we have is people buying them why they still can but if they get there way they will take our Arms and put us all in trouble like Germany as just be-for just world war two when they took the Germans people Guns why Don't they get help for the young people that doing most of the killing in the last two years and why dos the news keep asking why they all know that its the way of the times we live in now days but when they bring up the kids now days teach them guns are for sports not killing other people we have wars for that. good luck USA. we need it.

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 12:19 PM, justaguy wrote:

    The more guns sold to Patriotic Americans, the better! Also stock up on ammo and reloading supplies. God Bless the 2A and Molon Labe!

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 12:24 PM, Wacked wrote:

    I think every good american citizen in this country should own at least 5 shotguns and one high powered rifle. For the last five years the Obama adminstration has been buying billions of rounds of ammo from US Ammo manufactures. Recently an order went in for 12 billion rounds of 9mm hollow point...<<< Hollowe point projectiles..ie bullets thyat are fired out of a weapon are illegal to use in WarFARE per the Genieva Conventions. Also ealier this year Jun 2013 the US FEMA made a pact with Russian to provide 15,000 armed russian troops on US soil in time of natural disasters, cave-in mines and "Mass Event" crowd control <<< in otherwords if the President of the USA or the Federal Government feels threaten they can call in 15,000 armed Russian troops to put down or kill US Citzens expressing their rights under the US Constitution and the US Bill of Rights...

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 4:13 PM, Jsshous wrote:

    Obama can FINALLY claim credit for some economic growth that he is actually responsible for. He's gun salesman of the decade for sure. Imagine that!

  • Report this Comment On December 15, 2013, at 4:49 PM, kosmos wrote:

    With a "president" like ours gun sales will continue to flourish and for good reason. We have 8 firearms in the house and plans to add another handgun for a concealed carry permit.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2013, at 7:26 AM, ww2imposter wrote:

    MOLON LABE (come take them)

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2013, at 10:14 AM, ron2cu wrote:

    Isn't it funny that most of us who believe in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights and pay attention to our surroundings (and politics) do not need an article telling us why guns sold so well on black friday.

    The biggest "fool" here is Larissa Faw, for trying to write an article about it.

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2013, at 11:44 AM, thegreentreefrog wrote:

    America was built on GUNS! WE THE PEOPLE! Not WE the GOVERNMENT!

  • Report this Comment On December 16, 2013, at 12:05 PM, LarryLee wrote:

    You would have to be a real FOOL to not

    understand why so many firearms are being sold!

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4/15/2014 4:00 PM
CAB $64.22 Down -0.17 -0.26%
Cabela's, Inc. CAPS Rating: ****
DKS $51.71 Down -0.43 -0.82%
Dick's Sporting Go… CAPS Rating: ****
RGR $62.66 Up +0.75 +1.21%
Sturm, Ruger & Com… CAPS Rating: ****
SWHC $14.16 Up +0.05 +0.35%
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