Trump's win may blast gun sales record on Black Friday

NEWARK, Ohio -- On Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump had been elected president, a customer walked into the Phoenix Tactical gun shop here not to make a purchase but to cancel one.

The customer had put a Glock pistol on layaway, but wanted to void the purchase because Hillary Clinton had lost the election and a pro-gun Donald Trump had emerged victorious, Phoenix Tactical owner Bryan Bryner said.

"He said: 'The threat is gone,' " Bryner said.

That change of heart reflects a new economic era for gun retailers, who have seen record sales during the past eight years driven at least in part by the potential threat of new gun ownership restrictions under President Obama.

During the long run-up to the presidential election, The big post-Thanksgiving shopping day called Black Friday saw more gun sale background checks than any other day in U.S. history. This year, background checks through October were 26% higher than during the same period last year, according to the FBI.

But for the three days following Trump's election, the publicly traded stocks of gun makers Smith & Wesson Holding and Sturm Ruger & Co. both dropped more than 25% in what was seen by analysts as a sign of slower gun sales to come. The broader markets rose during that period, and stocks for those two companies have still not fully recovered from their post-election losses.

The election of Trump killed the prospects of a weeks-long or months-long post-election surge in business and lowered the chances for another record-setting Black Friday, firearms retailers say.

Instead, Black Friday, every bit the bargain shopping event for gun stores as it is for retailers such as Kohl's and Wal-Mart, will likely see slower sales and a different mix of guns selling this year than in 2015, said Mike Goschinski, owner of Ashland-based Fin Feather Fur Outfitters, which has five locations in northern Ohio.

"Are they going to come out and buy guns? Absolutely," said Goschinski, a Trump supporter who hosted Donald Trump Jr. to a large crowd at the Ashland, Ohio, store in October. "Is it going to happen at the rate that it did last year? Probably not."

Shoppers are likely to buy more traditional firearms instead of stocking up on handguns and models such as the AR-15, a high-powered, high-capacity rifle that is often under fire from gun control activists, Goschinski said.

"We see those guys that maybe would have bought an AR if Hillary won buying lever-action and bolt-action rifles and shotguns," he said. "That's what is going to carry us."

It's impossible to predict exactly how brisk sales will be this holiday season, but the firearms industry has managed to show strong overall growth for years despite changing administrations and some ups and downs in sales, said Bill Brassard Jr., spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry in the United States.

"Retailers expect it to be a healthy Black Friday," he said. "Whether it will be record-breaking remains to be seen."

Many factors, however, point to continued growth in coming years, even if sales slow compared with last year, Brassard said. First-time gun buyers make up more than 25% of purchasers at gun stores, social media has helped more potential gun buyers learn about gun ownership and concerns about crime have driven purchasing of late, he said.

While Trump's election may reduce the threat of further gun control measures, his campaign was rife with messages about rising crime and threats to Americans that will likely continue to drive gun purchases, said Chris Boring, an independent retail consultant in Columbus who has studied gun retailing.

"Gun sales are driven by emotions, specifically fear," he said. "And that's something that Trump has been successful, in the political arena, at selling — that feeling of fearfulness."

Phoenix Tactical owner Bryner said he expects Black Friday to be good for the business. The company is advertising its deals and plans to have a local radio station doing a live remote broadcast from the store that day, Bryner said. But if Clinton had won the election, those Black Friday promotions might not have been possible, he said.

"There are two weeks between the election and Black Friday. I would have been out of everything," he said.

Fin Feather Fur loaded up on handguns and AR-15 firearms, parts and magazines in preparation for a Clinton win, but heavily discounted those items before the election as Trump's chances improved, Goschinski said.

"We were all watching what was happening over the summer and saying: 'My God he is not going to win.' But about eight weeks before the election, I thought Trump can pull this out and I better prepare," he said. "We had a huge sale and dropped prices."

While Trump's win could cause a short-term hit to sales, gun retailers are generally thrilled the pro-gun candidate won.

"If she would have won, we would have had four crazy years of business again, and in terms of short-term greediness, it would have been great," Goschinski said. "But we are all about the long term. The Second Amendment will be protected for many years to come."

Top three all-time firearms sales days
Date - Background checks

Nov. 27, 2015 (Black Friday) - 185, 345

Dec. 21, 2012 (after Sandy Hook shooting) - 177,170

Nov. 28, 2014 (Black Friday) - 175,754

Source: FBI


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