Everyone's lives have been affected this past week by the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Toilet paper is out of stock. Hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, etc... all gone. People have been flocking to the store that are open in an attempt to procure these items. The other items they want?
Guns and ammo.
We had quite possibly the busiest period of sustained business ever, last week. We had hundreds of customers wait in lines outside the shop to get in. We sold nearly all of our ammunition inventory in a matter of days. Our firearms inventory is still pretty robust.
As part of our emergency operations plan (EOP), we've been keeping people up to date on our website and social media accounts.
We started last week with a surprising surge of business on Tuesday as news was reaching Americans that the effects of COVID-19 and the forced closing of some businesses caused both economic and emotional uncertainties. We took Wednesday to sort out our emergency operations plan and figure out ways to continue to provide service to our customers and keep our staff and the public safe from the spreading the virus.
The benefit to being a small business is that we can change our policies and procedures at a relatively quick pace, certainly much faster than large corporations. After putting in place the processes outlined in the blog post linked above, we made continual refinements during the week. On Friday we decided that scheduling appointments was simply not practical, at least at that time. We stopped scheduling those appointments and went to a simple "occupancy limit" for the shop and reduced the amount of people that could be inside at any one time. We also put in place access restrictions to only those with a valid Massachusetts LTC or FID card and did not let anyone in the shop that was under the age of 18, and only the purchaser was allowed in. This strategy greatly helped with the process of getting more people through the store in a timely fashion.
Saturday, we refined our processes even more and had folks wait in their car after filling out their 4473 form. This simple step is directly aimed at limiting virus transmission to our staff and other customers. This went pretty smoothly until the national background check system (NICS) crashed from the tremendous load it was handling. Luckily, that wasn't until late in the day.
On Monday, March 23rd, we are closed as we would normally be. However, David and Jason will be meeting to discuss how our processes worked last week and refining them to better meet the health and safety needs of our staff and customers. There will be some changes on how we operate and anything we do will be to continue to offer the best service we can in these uncertain times. I mentioned in a previous post, that selling a firearm is a pretty intimate process. Close-quarter conversations, passing a firearm back and forth and taking as much time as needed to make the customer feel heard and confident in their purchase. For us to have to reduce those qualities of our transactions is not something we enjoy having to do. We look forward to resuming normal business practices as soon as practical and hope everyone understands why we have made some of these changes.
I can say, without a doubt, that both David and myself are extremely impressed and comforted by the response we've received from the vast majority of customers in the shop. With the exception of a very few, people have been understanding and polite. Polite, not only with us, but with their fellow customers. I cannot count how many times I heard someone say to another customer "no, you go first, I'll wait..." while waiting in line to get into the shop. They very well know that the person in front of them may buy the last box of ammo or the firearm they are looking for, but they still respected each other. Something I think is likely hard to say about those hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer. So to all of you, a great thank you for everything. You make it worth it.