The political and social climate over the last few years has raised questions within the firearms community about regulations, executive actions, Supreme Court rulings, and legislation that could limit the buying and selling of some firearms, ammunition, and accessories. This has attracted more customers to make more purchases from businesses within the firearms industry.
One such business is family-owned and operated SafeSide Tactical in Roanoke, VA. SafeSide Tactical opened the doors to an 800-square-foot storefront in 2012, and within six months, industry growth forced the retailer and manufacturer into a 6,000-square-foot building, and just 2 years later to their current 72,000-square-foot building, which includes warehousing space and shipping areas. Today, SafeSide Tactical employs 65 people across two locations (the second location is more than 50,000 square feet) in the Southwest/Central Virginia area. Both locations have an indoor shooting range, and one houses a manufacturing and gunsmithing center. An E-Commerce business operates out of the main location but is treated as its own entity.
Transitioning From POS To All-Encompassing RMS
SafeSide Tactical’s first retail system was QuickBooks Point of Sale, which Mitchell Tyler, co-owner and vice president of SafeSide Tactical, says could not keep up with the growing company. For example, in the firearms industry, every gun that comes into the store has to be logged into a filing system sanctioned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. When a gun is sold or mailed to another dealer, the item is removed from the filing system. SafeSide Tactical manually recorded every gun received, who it was from, and to whom it was sold. This information was entered into a web-based electronic system, which did not communicate with QuickBooks POS, so transactions had to be duplicated.
“Customer information (i.e., name, address, birthdate, gun serial number) was collected upfront and re-entered into the electronic system on the back end,” explains Tyler. “That created a huge opportunity for human error.”
Tyler wanted to integrate the web-based system with the POS, but, he says, QuickBooks was not interested in such an integration. A simple Google search led Tyler to a retailer/retail software matchmaking site. He answered a few questions about SafeSide Tactical’s business needs, and the site responded with a list of POS providers, including Celerant. After researching price, software capabilities, and hardware requirements, Tyler concluded that Celerant’s Stratus checked off all the boxes. “Celerant was a little more expensive, but more important to us than price was that the system was all-encompassing,” he says. “It included software licenses, encrypted credit card hardware, training, and had the ability to grow with us.”
Seamless Data Conversion
Celerant seamlessly converted all of SafeSide Tactical’s data to the new POS. Tyler explains: “We had to export customer data from the QuickBooks POS, and firearms data from the web-based system, and get it all to come together into the Celerant solution as one homogenous database.”
In addition to having one database, Tyler says that SafeSide Tactical is saving money and increasing productivity by not having to manually enter customer and firearms data. Stratus has a driver’s license scanner that interprets a barcode on the back of the customer’s license and communicates that information to the database.
One of the most important features of Stratus Retail from Tyler’s perspective is that the system supports SafeSide Tactical’s physical stores and shooting range. In fact, Stratus has a range module that tracks lanes by user and time spent on the range, and ensures that safety waivers are completed. Additionally, Stratus tracks range memberships and automatically processes monthly membership payments via stored credit card information.
E-Commerce Offers Thousands Of Items, Generates Thousands In Sales
In addition to supporting its physical stores and shooting range, Stratus supports SafeSide Tactical’s E-Commerce business. Since going live with the website nine months ago, Tyler says, SafeSide Tactical has experienced record-selling online gift card revenue. “We sold $30,000 more in online gift card purchases in November and December in 2017 than we did in physical stores the previous year,” he says.
SafeSide Tactical stocks approximately 3,000 products in its brick-and-mortar stores but more than 37,000 items online. The E-Commerce site developed by Celerant integrates with SafeSide Tactical’s distributors’ catalogues so that Tyler’s staff can easily review products, decide which items they want to sell, and import the products into the SafeSide Tactical website. In just a half hour, Tyler says, upwards of 200 products daily can be added to the website using Stratus.
To avoid out-of-stock situations, SafeSide Tactical receives hourly inventory data updates from its distributors and vendors. “That way, we only show products that are available to ship that day by our distributors,” says Tyler. “If a gun goes out of stock, it goes off the site, in real-time. Another product takes its place on the website and then, hopefully, we convert customers to an item that maybe they wouldn't have seen the day before.”
The website also keeps track of customer data such as purchase history, which SafeSide Tactical uses to send targeted emails. “Now, we can send emails to everybody who has shopped in the store in the last week, we can send a coupon to people who have shopped on the website, or we can send a coupon to people who shopped on the website and live within 30 miles of one of our stores to get them to come into the store,” says Tyler. “Or I can email a link to a calendar and coupons to customers who have taken training classes in the past and may be interested in scheduling another class.” He says the targeted emails have a higher open and click rate than the monthly email blasts SafeSide Tactical used to send to every customer.
Many items – accessories, scopes, medical kits – on the SafeSide Tactical website can be drop shipped by the distributor directly to the customer, with one exception: Firearms can only be shipped to a licensed dealer who then follows state and federal laws for background checks. “Drop shipping means items reach customers faster,” says Tyler. “And we keep track of the orders to provide updated tracking information to the customer.”
As part of its E-Commerce business, SafeSide Tactical relies on Stratus to facilitate catalog imports, which allows the retailer to connect with its distributors, such as AcuSport and Sports South, on the backend and import those items into the database. “We search for the items on the catalog import, and the system creates those items in our database with all the pertinent information like cost and barcodes, and lets us put a price on them,” explains Tyler.
Automated purchase ordering is also possible with Stratus. Rather than projecting inventory needs, SafeSide Tactical uses a min/max system within the Celerant retail software to ensure that there are no more and no less of a certain item in inventory. SafeSide Tactical then lets the system know which distributor to purchase the item from based on price and how fast it can be shipped. Every evening, the system looks at inventory and automatically creates and sends an electronic purchase order to the preferred distributor.
One Provider Addresses All Technology Concerns
As a company that continues to expand, SafeSide Tactical has subscribed to Celerant's Assurance program. This alerts the retailer about Stratus Retail software updates and allows Tyler to test and then upgrade to these new versions. He says it is not uncommon to spend weeks testing the updates to see how they interact with their core business functions at SafeSide. “This gives us the confidence to then roll out the new version and know exactly how it will work for us,” he says.
Another benefit of using the Celerant software, says Tyler, is that Celerant is always bringing new technology, new integrations, and new partnerships that allow SafeSide Tactical to stay ahead of industry trend. Each year Tyler attends Celerant’s annual client conference to learn about the new enhancements Celerant has developed, try the latest software, meet new partners, and network with Celerant staff and other Celerant software users.
“We appreciate having those conversations, especially with other tactical suppliers,” says Tyler. “When we share ideas, it’s like the rising tide lifting all ships.”
But Tyler does admit that with any advanced software, there will be areas of the software that can be challenging. Tyler appreciates working with one company that addresses all of his questions and appreciates Celerant’s around-the-clock support staff. “One Black Friday, we realized that our server was set to start up at 7 a.m., but we were opening at 6 a.m.,” he says. “I called Celerant support staff at 5:58 a.m. that Black Friday morning to have them remotely get the server up and running. That support is invaluable, and we feel like we have a partner in Celerant.”