Paul Helinkski of Guns America

On Saturday night (Sunday morning), at the NRA Convention, I stayed up until 3:00 AM socializing and blogging. I arrived at the Press Room a few minutes before 9:00 the next morning and found I was the first one there for the meeting with Paul Helinkski of Guns America. Wimps. Even the NRA staff hadn’t arrived to unlock the door early after being late the day before. If it hadn’t been for the wheelbarrow full of cash I received on arrival I would have been a little bit annoyed with the NRA for dropping the ball in this regard two days in a row.

About 9:00 other bloggers and press people showed up to wait. Bitter had no explanation:

More people showed up–and waited:

Then Helinkski showed up and waited with the rest of us:

Finally, about 15 or 20 minutes late, the NRA staff (names withheld to protect the guilty) showed up, let us in, and we all sat down to listen to Helinkski:

He gave us his background and while interesting from a technical aspect most of my readers aren’t going to care about that. What probably is interesting is what he had to say about the future of gun sales on the Internet.

Helinkski is of the opinion that gun are a very unique product that cannot be sold like other products. The required FFL for shipment and NICS checks for most sales is the reason. That “speed bump” could be smoothed out by “dealers” that do not stock firearms but simply do the transfers and charge $20 or $30. But, according to Helinkski, this would be the very bad for gun owners. Sure we could get guns a few dollars cheaper if we did our purchases that way but having the gun store down the street on the corner is more important that those few dollars. The public visibility is important and having the customer service locally available is important.

So what is the future of Internet gun sales? Helinkski has an innovative web product that addresses that. Check out GunsAmerica.com. His website allows dealers to post their inventory on the web and the customers to comparison shop. You can search for guns within X miles of your zip code and then if the dealer makes a sale because you found what you liked on the website Helinkski makes a flat fee on the deal. You still have to visit the dealer and purchase the gun face-to-face but what Guns America has done is make the comparison shopping much easier.

6 thoughts on “Paul Helinkski of Guns America

  1. Interesting concept, but…..GunsAmerica is the outfit where I terminated my account because I got tired of them spamming me with nag notes. I don’t miss it because Gun Broker had, and AFAIK still has, more listings.

  2. I’m going to finish cutting the audio from that this weekend – the quality isn’t too great since I was using a 5 year old tape recording, but it’s still worth listening to.

  3. To Anon (posted Friday, May 23, 2008 3:09:09 AM) about the nag notes: My Guns America account has a way to opt out of emails. Its a simple check off choice of yes or no to emails on the same page where I have my membership information. Been there for as long as I an remember, and I’m sure it wasn’t a feature created just for me.

  4. I sold my Colt Anaconda through a gun store in Colorado a few years ago, thanks to Guns America.

    And with the check box to not send me anything not related to my ads, they’ve never sent me anything other than stuff related to my ads, and the notice they were changing their systems to a new format…

  5. The concept applies not just to guns, but anything that can be bought and sold. It’s making a huge impact everywhere, especially when the product can be loaded directly onto your computer– music, movies, print material.

    In the musical instrument business, wherein the customer will always need service after the sale, it’s been a topic of conversation for years. Before that, pre-internet discount catalog dealers were the big nemesis to local retailers. It was during this pre-internet period that manufacturers instituted MAP (Minimum Advertized Pricing) and that concept is applied today to internet sales by many in the gun accessories business. Some enforce it and other do not.

    I wrote an essay on the broader subject years ago, which was widely distributed in the music industry. It basically said that we in local retail have to respond with attractive storefronts, knowledge, friendly service and generally with innovation. If all you have to offer is a low price, you have a market, but you are vulnerable to the “value added” retailers. Don’t try to compete for just a piece of the other guy’s pie– “grow the pie”. You can’t expect to just hang out a shingle and make it against multi-million dollar, national retailers. You have to offer something uniquely interesting. Lessons, seminars, sponsoring events, house brands, service packages, local advertizing, and flexible purchase plans are but a few examples. Not many local gun stores do any of the above.

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