Stocking Youth and Women’s Gear

Don’t be afraid to dedicate a section of your store to the small-but-growing segment of hunters who don’t fit into traditional men’s gear.

Stocking Youth and Women’s Gear

Growing up in an active outdoors family, we were constantly on the search for better, warmer, and dryer gear for me and my sisters. I am old enough to remember the days before Gore-Tex, and, quite frankly, the vast majority of the clothing that we wore would be considered grossly inadequate today.

I shot my first deer at age 12 in November in Montana. The high temperature for that week was -10°F. My hunting clothes consisted of cotton, waffled, long underwear, hand-me-down wool socks, a pair of children’s black nylon snow pants, a chamois shirt (also made of cotton), and a parka that (thankfully) had synthetic insulation, but whose exterior was not waterproof. 

Thankfully, by then I had grown enough so that I could wear the smallest men’s size Sorel pack boots. My previous choices were children’s “moon boots” or insulated (though not very well) Northland rubber knee boots. To say I was cold was an understatement. I froze the entire time. We could not sit for longer than 20 to 30 minutes. When I received the gift of a set of insulated camouflage coveralls for my 15th birthday, I thought it was the greatest gift fathomable to receive. 

Fast forward a bit, and Gore-Tex hit the market, completely revolutionizing the ability to stay warm and dry in any weather Mother Nature could throw out at you. It was very expensive, but not long after that, other companies followed suit with their own proprietary waterproof and breathable membranes. Materials improved dramatically to a number of choices that were warm, quiet and dry, and which allowed for greater mobility than the old Carhartt coveralls or traditional, bulky insulated outerwear. 

My sisters weren’t so lucky, and because of that, they never really took to the outdoor lifestyle. 

There were no women’s nor youth hunting clothes and gear back then. Boots for children were either rubber and uninsulated or had a great deal of insulation but were not very waterproof. Hunting-specific clothing was limited to men’s size smalls, which meant pants that were almost always ill-fitting — but at least ladies and kids could be warm and dry in their treestand or duck blind. 

Fortunately for all of the women and children out there, and, perhaps, most importantly, for the continued future of the traditional outdoor sports of hunting, camping, fishing, and shooting, that has dramatically changed. Today, most major manufacturers of apparel in the hunting industry make clothing in youth and women’s sizes, while companies like Prois, Girls with Guns, DSG and many others make high-quality products specifically designed to fit and perform for women and youth. 

It is well known that for at least the last five years, the fastest-growing segment in the hunting marketplace is women, followed closely by youth. As a business owner, you should follow the trends of the market, as they will give you your best chance at making more sales today and in the future. It will be more than worth your while to add women’s and youth clothing to your lineup. Here’s why. 

1. Women control a large majority of the purchasing for most households. Despite women taking an ever-growing place in the workforce, they are still responsible for most purchases. Additionally, having a woman shopping in your store is a great excuse for her husband or significant other to come as well, giving you double the selling opportunities. The same goes for children. Young children cannot go to the store alone. They will have a parent with them. Don’t decrease your chance of making another sale by 50% because you don’t have anything for mom if she’s the one that brings the child in. Depending on whose research you favor, the data shows that women have the ultimate control over 70 to as high as 91% of ALL household purchases. 

Fortune 500 companies target moms for good reason. 

You should, too. 

2. 22% of households consist of a child or children with a single mother. This is a vast untapped market whose members tend to be exceptionally loyal. People tend to shop at the same grocery store, frequent the same restaurants, and patronize the same businesses for many, many years. The chances are good that if you recruit those customers to your establishment, they will remain a customer for a very long time. That not only gives you the opportunity to sell them their initial setup of gear, but also other items like guns, bows, accessories, boots and more. 

3. There really aren’t many stores that cater to women and children. The outdoor marketplace has been rather slow to come around to selling to women and youth. Many apparel companies still don’t offer specialty apparel for women and children. The good news for the consumer is that more and more are doing so every year. The good news for you is that you now have the opportunity to add not one, but several lines to your lineup and bring those potential buyers to your store. Many retailers aren’t willing to dedicate floor space to what they see as niche products — which means you have the opportunity to be the go-to shopping place in your area where women and kids can actually try on the clothes they’re looking to purchase.

4. Many women and youth are brand new customers to the marketplace. Many of them have never bought a coat, pants, gun, bow, or any of the ancillary gear required for hunting or shooting. That means that, despite today’s consumer being more educated than ever before, chances are that they will not have as much experience comparing brands and types of apparel or equipment. This is not an excuse to take advantage of a customer, but it does stack the deck in your favor when it comes to making a sale the first time or several times that they come in. Having several high-quality choices that are priced competitively will give you a distinct advantage when the customer is in front of you. 

5. More distributors are now carrying women’s and youth gear. What that means is you will not have to order large amounts of inventory from manufacturers in order to sell products for women and children. Some stores go so far as to have a rack of demo gear on the sales floor to try on for fit, feel and function, then are available to either order the product in or even have it delivered directly to the customer’s door within a few days. One of the good things Amazon has done in the marketplace is condition people to not be averse to having things shipped to them. One of the biggest complaints about Amazon is the inability to touch, feel and try things on before ordering. 

There is a downside to this as well. It is very important that you make sure that your pricing is in line with the market, as it is very easy for a customer to check what everyone else is selling it for, including direct-ship companies like Amazon. Yes, it is not the ideal situation, but taking care of your customer in this way will make them more likely to buy from you in the future — especially  if it’s something you have in stock and they can take home. 

6. Thanks to a plethora of high-quality gear, guns and accessories, consumers have become accustomed to purchasing bigger ticket items with the anticipation that they will last over time. Youth guns and bows tend to hold their value for the customer. What that means is that if their child grows out of their gun or bow in a year or two, it is easily sold on the secondary market for almost as much as they paid for it. 

The smart business owner takes this into account and will offer a trade-in value for smaller-sized items such as these. Now, not only can you get multiple sales from the same customer, but you have the opportunity to gain another new customer by selling them the used gear that was just traded in. It’s win-win-win for everyone. 

The fact that there is an increase in the number of women and youth in the firearms, hunting, fishing and outdoor world is good news for many reasons. It keeps the power of the purse over conservation squarely in the hands of those who are closest to the source, brings more opportunities to all due to the expanded marketplace and, perhaps most importantly, can make a significant impact to your bottom line. 


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