Shoppers gave Black Friday the cold shoulder this year, except for those packing heat.
Gun sales boomed on the traditional kick start to the holiday shopping season, with the federal background check system setting a record of 175,000 checks on Friday, according to the FBI. On a typical day in 2013, the agency processed about 58,000 checks. Even as overall Black Friday weekend spending was down 11 percent from last year, according to the National Retail Federation trade group, firearms provided an unexpected flash of hope for sporting good stores and gun shops.
Like any savvy shopkeeper on the shopping holiday, gun retailers used doorbuster deals, bundles and selective discounts to drive traffic. Wal-Mart offered 20 percent off all firearms Friday through Sunday. At Cabela’s, the first 600 in line by 5 a.m. on Black Friday got a chance to win several door prizes, including a Browning composite rifle, a $529 value. According to reports, shoppers lined up at the door and around the corner at various Cabela’s locations to take advantage of the promotion, one the chain has offered annually for several years. Elsewhere, Bass Pro shops offered a Remington .45 automatic pistol for $529, a $200 savings after discounting and a $70 instant rebate.
Sales were brisk at the Rio Rancho Armory in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The gunshop's deals included AR-15 rifles for $499, down from $799.
"It was wall to wall sales," said owner Nash Torres. "Best Black Friday on record for us."
Manufacturer rebates helped grease purchases. And a general sales slump meany many stores were happy to put their guns on sale to get rid of surplus stock, said Steve Johnson, editor of The Firearm Blog.
"Some online stores discounted ammunition earlier in the week and they were sold out before Thanksgiving," he added.
In the end, the high rate of gun sales on Black Friday came down to a matter of simple economics.
"It's a buyer's market right now and the prices are at the lowest point ever," said Torres.