Thinking of opening a small police supply store

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by Kadetklapp, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Kadetklapp

    Kadetklapp Methberry PD

    Messages:
    5,738
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2007
    Ok, I've had this pipe dream for ten years or so to open my own small business in the fashion of a police supply store. I recently found out the one local to me (Lafayette Guns and Gear) has gone out of business. The next closest one is Ray O'herron's in Danville, Illinois. I've found their customer service to be mostly crap, although they recently appeased me on a small issue, but it was the result of poor customer service in the first place.

    Anyway, I work with a special deputy who owns a lot of real-estate. He's a retired guy and does transports for us in his free time. He offered to rent me a downtown storefront/corner place for a pretty good price. It's not a huge place, but there is plenty of room for a uniform show room, duty gear section, large firearms counter, and I could probably stock and sell some emergency warning equipment. It's street parking but there is a pay lot nearby, but still not the best parking.

    I suck at math and am not real good at book keeping, so I'd probably hire that out. I'd have to hire a seamstress (My mother most likely) and I'd probably have to hire one or two part time helpers.

    Not sure I could give up my full-time job until it took off, if it took off.

    So what do you guys think? How does one go about getting a business loan, FFL, contracts with the big names like Glock, Winchester, Federal, Blackinton, Danner, Safariland, etc. Anyone run a business like this before? :dunno:

    I would stay in law enforcement, but if this is successful, I'd get off the full time gig and stick with this.
     
  2. cowboywannabe

    cowboywannabe you savvy?

    Messages:
    23,475
    Likes Received:
    8,336
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2001
    paint everything black, lable it as "tactical" and make a mint off every rookie in the area.
     

  3. Malstorme

    Malstorme Bad Influence

    Messages:
    121
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2004
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    The easiest way to make a million dollars selling police equipment is to start with $2 million. You might try contacting the people that ran the recently closed store and inquire why they closed it, rather than selling it to someone...

    Good luck with your decision, wherever it takes you.

    Mals
     
  4. jpa

    jpa CLM

    Messages:
    8,030
    Likes Received:
    131
    Joined:
    May 28, 2001
    Location:
    Las Vegas NV
    I see that as being a tough nut to crack unless you can get a contract with the local depts who pay for their staff's uniforms directly. If you have a police academy close by, it might not be a bad idea. I'd also try to get an equipment list from each local dept if they provide such a list to their new officers so you know what to stock. Also a list of their approved duty weapons would be helpful so you know which gear to focus on. Biggest problem I see is the duty gear...you're going to get the one guy in who wants a Safariland ALS level 65 holster in low-gloss clarino for his HK P2000 with a light mounted. Then when you tell him you have to order it, he's going to grumble about how if he wanted to order it, he'd have done it on the internet and he's going to post on GlockTalk about how horrible your service is because you don't have anything in stock.
     
  5. wprebeck

    wprebeck Have you seen me?

    Messages:
    9,689
    Likes Received:
    4,667
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2002
    Location:
    Mm..looks like heaven
    If you're interested, I can give you a bit of advice on it. PM for my contact info.
     
  6. blueiron

    blueiron

    Messages:
    11,261
    Likes Received:
    219
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2004
    Every area is different because of agency demands, but you have to realize that agencies set those demands. Uniform changes, accessories, issued items, uniform allowances, numbers of officers, etc., all set the tempo for a business supplying their employees.

    Example: A large uniform supplier owned by a uniform producer [Fecheimer] went out of business here in Phoenix, AZ a few years back. They sold police, postal, and some medical clothing.

    What killed them was the fact that Phoenix PD and the surrounding agencies kept changing their uniforms and the uniform specs. The cost of acquiring the new uniforms for everyone from a size 22 short to a size 54 long in trousers; size 36 short to size 56 long in shirts and jackets was daunting. Then, they had to find something to do with the now new-old-stock that no one wanted. They carried firearms, but their employees were not gun people and the prices were always somehow cheaper elsewhere [gun stores aren't exactly huge money making enterprises].

    It requires a huge amount of capital and time spent on the part of the owners. If you don't understand cash flow, accounting, and retail operations; go to school and take some coursework before you spend dollar 1 on the business.

    Banks will want a business plan before loaning out any money in this capital restricted time and you have to hire employees, not relatives who want a hobby.

    It can be done and I hope you do very well.
     
  7. Mhiett

    Mhiett God is Love.

    Messages:
    697
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2008
    Location:
    NWArkansas
    I've had two good friends take on this beast. One supplimented his cop shop with a reloading business, and one didn't.

    One is now closed and working for the dept of corrections.
     
  8. ateamer

    ateamer NRA4EVR

    Messages:
    9,978
    Likes Received:
    3,450
    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2001
    Location:
    In the hallway - it's on cuz!
    Don't do business the way our local uniform shop does. If you want satisfied customers, you need to:
    -Have excellent tailors who can adjust a uniform to fit properly, every time. No high water pants, no baggy waists on shirts.
    -Sell the big brands - Elbeco, Flying Cross, etc. Not small and off-brands and make excuses about why you don't have the industry standards. It might take more investment, because you might be required to carry more stock, but it's worth it to the customers.
    -Carry a wide selection of duty gear.
    -If you don't have something in stock, get it in ASAP.
    -Be honest. If you don't have a particular item, don't tell an officer that you will get it in, then two months later tell him that your supplier doesn't carry it and you don't have any other options and think it's not available. Twenty seconds on Google proves that to be BS every time.
    -Never talk smack about any agency to a member of another agency. Most of the officers you are doing business with will have no idea that you are, or were, in law enforcement and will take it as just some clerk who sells shoes and shirts talking out his *** again.
    -Never tell a customer that the reason you couldn't get a jacket (nothing special, just a standard Spiewak duty jacket) in stock in less than five weeks is because the distributor is a blankety-blank Jew from back East. He will tell pretty much everyone he works with, and the ranking officer who controls purchasing, and do everything possible to make sure that no one spends a penny with you again.
    -If your shop is in a place where county purchasing rules require that contracts be with in-county businesses and have no performance clause, none of the above applies.
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2010
  9. Gangrel

    Gangrel

    Messages:
    1,865
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2007
    If I opened one, I'd almost say stay away from uniforms, stick with equipment.
     
  10. blueiron

    blueiron

    Messages:
    11,261
    Likes Received:
    219
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2004
    Remember that many brands like Flying Cross, Fecheimer, Safariland, etc. require you to carry a mandated minimum level of product before they will consider you as a stocking dealer. Lots of non competitive contracts out there to prevent over staturation of their products and to prevent price wars.
     
  11. Dexters

    Dexters

    Messages:
    4,191
    Likes Received:
    7
    Joined:
    May 3, 2004
    Location:
    ga
    Why did Lafayette Guns and Gear go out of business? I would start there.
    I've worked on many business plans. You should be able to put together a spread sheet - P&L, Balance sheet, cash flow - to see if if it makes business sense.
     
  12. BlackPaladin

    BlackPaladin

    Messages:
    2,302
    Likes Received:
    65
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2003
    Location:
    Somewhere out there
    In this day and age, unless you can compete with Galls, LA Police Gear or Streichers, my money is that you will wash out in 18 months or less. These companys make the bucks because they are online, and throw gadgets in with your purchase (the toy with the happy meal). I don't want to think starting up shop can't be done, but I just imagine it would be tougher than nails.
     
  13. ottomatic

    ottomatic

    Messages:
    1,815
    Likes Received:
    574
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2002
    Location:
    SW Tennessee

    Disclaimer: The only business experience I have had was 3 months running a small lumber business, BUT the above post hits the nail right on the head. Most of us do much of our shopping online these days, and those prices are hard to beat.
    But if you decide to go for it, best of luck!
     
  14. MeefZah

    MeefZah Cover is Code 3

    Messages:
    4,246
    Likes Received:
    820
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2008
    Location:
    Lost Coast, Cali
    Pretty daunting challenge to start a business in this economy, especially a niche business like a uniform / gun supply shop.

    I think the other posters all make very valid points.

    The other store obviously tanked for a reason, and unless it was horrific customer service or something not related to the state of the economy, you may well tank in the same manner.

    Good luck.
     
  15. lawman800

    lawman800 Juris Glocktor

    Messages:
    38,472
    Likes Received:
    118
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2002
    Location:
    It just keeps getting better, don't it?
    I would be very wary of the small margins on these products versus their readily available research of low price alternative suppliers online. The only time you will be saved is if local departments have an open P.O. with you and officers come in to get their uniforms measured and paid for by the PD. We have one with a local shop and they got contracts with all local PDs so people just go in all the time and buy shirts and pants since it's not their dime.

    Cops are a very cheap bunch when it comes to stuff that is not high speed and fun, i.e. guns. Uniforms and gear get used more than our guns but that's where we will spend the money since it's fun. If we had to pay for our own uniforms and gear, we would spend 10 days online to find that one guy who sells it for $1 cheaper and then we would use it for 10 years to stretch its life out as much as we can until the thumb break falls off the duty holster and then we'll glue it and duct tape it until the sergeant yells at us and then we'll still try to get another week or two out of it before it has to be retired.
     
  16. glock192327

    glock192327 Where is eye

    Messages:
    910
    Likes Received:
    0
    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2009
    Location:
    Roughly 35 North by 81 West
    Trust me man, spend a hundred bucks with a good CPA. Preferable one that won't blow optimistic sunshine up your backside, just to make six to twenty-four months of fees off ya, while you're bleeding your 401K. This economy simply sucks, I don't give a damn where you live. So if you'd plan on spending 100 hours researching this idea in a good economy, spend 300 now. Just my ten cents, given inflation. Good luck Bubba.
     
  17. Aquanewt

    Aquanewt

    Messages:
    870
    Likes Received:
    1
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2001
    Location:
    Baltimore, MD, USA
    One of our guys (now retired) started out with a shop like you describe in the basement of a pawn shop. He eventually bought a building and got a FFL and a wife who works doing his embroidery. (Polos and the like) He did well until he lost the vest (Second Chance) contract with us. He still is in business but he puts in 60 + hours a week, hasn't had a vacation for years and would sell out in a minute if he could. He has the only active FFL in Baltimore City and is a Glock stocking dealer but there is plenty of competition right over the City/County line. As stated the internet/big catalog supplier market is huge too. Stuff to think about.
     
  18. COLOSHOOTR

    COLOSHOOTR

    Messages:
    854
    Likes Received:
    94
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2005
    Location:
    Colorado
    +1! I'd also keep away from the firearms if I were you. Maybe get into them later but as someone already said firearms are not a money maker it's the gadgets for the weapons and the equipment where you'll make your money.


    I know a guy here that opened a small shop and he is doing great. He had to expand into the store next door to keep up with sales. If you do it like him you should do alright.... Here is what I've seen that he does.

    Unlike other stores he knows what he is talking about. As a retired officer he's been there broke that and knows what products actually work.

    He's honest... He'll sell you the stuff that works best even if he could make more on a more ex*****ive "brand name" piece of equipment. It keeps guys comming back.

    He has the essentials in stock all the time and carries most of the poplular equipment that people like. He learns what weapons guys carry in the area and has the stuff for those popular weapons plus some. If he does not have it he'll get it and usually has it for you in less than a week.

    They go out of their way to help you. I hate going to the other places here (one large store and one smaller) because you have to wait around forever to get help and the help you do get is usually worthless and you have to wait again for someone who works that specific area. Last time I went to the smaller location to buy rifle plates the guy had no clue about the products and I had to dig and find all the info myself. After I found what I wanted and asked the how much and how long before they come in question and got a dumbfounded look and the reply, " I don't know you'd have to ask the owner and she left." The customer service and product knowledge is why the guy I know is doing so good.

    He DOES NOT deal in firearms... No money there and it increases the risk of breakins and I think insurance goes up.

    He did not do uniforms other then a small selection of BDU's or raid jackets. With his expansion I think he is going to stock a SMALL selection of uniform items but I'm not sure.

    If you run a business like that and have the customer service to get us to keep coming back you can do good. As for the legal aspects to open a place or get a loan I have no clue.... Good luck and hope all goes well if you decide to go forward with this!