S&W Gunning for a New Product Line

Smith & Wesson is showing its softer side. In its 2001 Apparel, Accessories, Collectibles catalog, the 149-year-old Springfield, MA-based gun manufacturer/marketer has introduced such items as baby socks and stuffed animals branded with the company’s logo.

Smith & Wesson began selling non-gun items featuring its logo about eight years ago, says marketing director Ken Jorgensen. But with the 2001 catalog, which mailed this spring, the company expanded its product line significantly. “We’ve included more clothing items such as T-shirts and sweat-shirts, collectible cars, belt buckles, key chains, and travel mugs,” Jorgensen says.

Rompers for toddlers and plush toys may seem unlikely products to market to gunslingers, but “our audience has changed,” Jorgensen notes. “Originally it was mainly avid firearms enthusiasts. Now our buyers are not necessarily enthusiasts — and in some cases they’re not gun owners at all. But they like our brand because they think it represents tradition and quality, and we have a classic logo that they like.”

Shooting blanks with gun sales

The past five years have not been kind to the venerable gun maker. Smith & Wesson’s sales plunged from $150 million in 1995 to $50 million in 2000. But Jorgensen insists that the new product line is not merely an attempt to make up for lost revenue. “These types of items represent a small percentage of our overall sales,” he says. “We’re still a firearms company.”

Smith & Wesson will continue to mail its Apparel, Accessories, Collectibles catalog several times a year. With a circulation “in the hundreds of thousands,” according to Jorgensen, the book mails primarily to the company’s house file.

As for how that house file likes the new, softer product offerings, “response has been very positive,” Jorgensen says. “We wouldn’t continue if we weren’t meeting our objectives.”

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