Dad’s Super Pawn, located in Gulfport, Mississippi, came about 34 years ago as something of an impulse idea from owner Kevin Riley’s father. “I was actually going to college,” recalls Riley, who says that until then he had never even set foot in a pawn shop. “We were in the restaurant business,” he explains. “and Dad just called me out of the blue one day and asked, ‘What do you think about the pawn business?’”
Riley skipped school that very day to do reconnaissance and reported back politely that the ones he went to looked “rough,” but that the business also looked like it could be a lot of fun because they could deal with several different product types. “I asked about a different style of store, though, so our stores are very well lit, they’re clean, we wax the floors regularly. We’re a little bit more upscale,” Riley says.
The upscale strategy worked, with Dad’s Super Pawn growing from a little store with two guns in stock and $500 in the till to a 13,000-square-foot main building with an inventory of 5,000 guns, two locations and a staff of 25. “We had three stores at one time,” recalls Riley, “but Hurricane Katrina put an end to that.” Dad’s is now also a “Top 100” retailer in the U.S. for Henry Repeating Arms, a status Riley doesn’t take lightly.
SHOT Show is About the Buy, Buy, Buy
That kind of growth doesn’t just happen by accident, and SHOT Show is an important part of Dad’s success. Riley and his head buyer go to SHOT each year, but before SHOT they’re taking stock of what customers want via various listening posts and incorporating what they learn into their SHOT Show strategy.
“Hog hunting has exploded, especially at night, and so our customers want some kind of night vision,” Riley says as an example of coordinating listening with SHOT Show purchasing. “That’s probably been one of the most exciting things going on here in the past four to five years for us.
“We go there always to buy product,” says, Riley of the 29 SHOT Shows he has under his belt. “That’s why we’re going. That is the first and foremost reason.
Information Makes Dad’s Super Pawn Go Round
At SHOT, Riley and his buyer typically have appointments from start to finish the entire four days they’re there. “We usually get there a day early, if not two days sometimes just so we can attend meetings and meet with reps and company officials” Riley adds. On the floor and during those appointments, the two are looking for new and exciting products, because that is what their customers want. He admits it’s getting harder to find what he considers products that are truly new and exciting, but the shop still blows out old inventory all the time. “It’s a constant upgrade of discounting the old product to get in the new product,” he says.
Part of their SHOT Show strategy includes learning details about new products so they can bring that information back to the sales staff.
“First of all, we educate ourselves,” explains Riley of how he educates his customers. “Then you get the staff educated, and then they can educate the public, because it’s an ongoing teaching project for everybody across the board,” he adds, noting that today’s customers are much more knowledgeable than those in the past. “Our customers do a lot of research before they come in the door. They know what they’re looking for a lot of times, whereas in the past they came in here to learn, so that aspect has changed.”
Aside from being at SHOT to buy, Riley also uses it as an opportunity to learn from other retailers. Building strong relationships with the exhibitors has been key to gaining the information he needs to make his shop work.
“We meet everyone we can in the business so we can learn from them. We’ll learn a lot from the reps and the other retailers. It’s huge. The learning experience alone is really off the chart,” Riley says and points out that where you meet and talk with other retailers can be as formal as a scheduled reception to a casual conversation while waiting for the free shuttle or stepping out to get some air. “I have learned a lot listening to other retailers, and we’re very fortunate in that a lot of companies invite us to their private events at SHOT. There is always that one little tidbit of information you learn every single time that you can bring directly back to your company and make your company better.”
Social Media From Show to Home Turns Talk Into Sales
While it helps Dad’s Super Pawn to have customers who know what they want, Riley also uses tools such as social media to tell customers what he has. As part of that, he collects marketing photos and videos of new products while at SHOT and incorporates those into his internet marketing efforts. Riley calls his social media advertising budget “huge” every year, and also relies on engaging customers in online conversation. “We know they’re reading it, because I get a lot of feedback — pros and cons — but mostly pros.
With such discussion started online, Riley says that customers will then come in and talk face-to-face over the sales counter. There he converts what started on social media into a sale by having a good sales staff.
“You know,” said Riley, “most of the people are pretty excited when you have something great going on.”
About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for such storied publications as American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal-defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.