Guns and corsets: US firearms industry strikes gold marketing to women

Guns and corsets: US firearms industry strikes gold marketing to women

Carrie Lightfoot, the founder of The Well Armed Woman, demonstrates a gun draw from a purse's
Carrie Lightfoot, the founder of The Well Armed Woman, demonstrates a gun draw from a purse's holster compartment at the Gun Tote'n Mamas booth during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

LAS VEGAS: Entrepreneur and fashion designer Anna Taylor is trying to bring back the corset - not to revive Victorian lingerie but to give women a place to carry their handguns.

"I don't know that the corset's ever been out of fashion, but it's never been so useful," Taylor said in Las Vegas at this year's SHOT Show, the largest trade show for the firearms industry.

After overlooking the women's market for years, the firearms industry now sees women as the drivers of growth. Gun sales have declined since peaking in 2016, with companies like Remington Outdoor Company Inc going through bankruptcy reorganisation last year, but the women's share of the market has been growing.

Lorelei Price, owner and founder of Miss Concealed, shows off concealed-carry holsters for women du
Lorelei Price, owner and founder of Miss Concealed, shows off concealed-carry holsters for women during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Women have led the change, both as consumers and as entrepreneurs in the world of accessories, forcing gun-makers to follow their lead.

Retailers estimate women accounted for 23 per cent of the US$44 billion retail market for firearms and accessories in 2016, up 7 percentage points from 2010, according to data from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which runs the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show.

U.S. firearms sales peaked at 15.7 million in 2016, according to NSSF data. Sales fell to 14 million in 2017 and are on pace to dip again in 2018. The trend reflects politics, with sales driven by fears that a Democratic president will limit gun rights.

CORSETS AND YOGA PANTS

Taylor created her own company, Dene Adams, in 2013 upon growing frustrated over the lack of holsters for women.

She sewed a neoprene mouse pad into one of her corsets for her first prototype, and now has a lineup of 13 holsters for Dene Adams. Sales reached US$250,000 in 2014 and grew to US$1 million in 2018, she said.

Anna Taylor, founder and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHO
Anna Taylor, founder and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Among the hot items this year are yoga pants with enough support in the waistband to carry the weight of a gun. Taylor also pulled up the hem of her skirt, showing off her compression shorts with a built-in thigh holster that allows a woman to pack a piece whether she is dressed for a night on the town or Monday morning at the office.

Men's holsters have traditionally been designed around the belt, but because women wear a variety of outfits they need options in the bra, waist, belly, underarm, thigh, ankle and purse. That also means women need to practice their draw from multiple angles.

Firearms companies once engaged in what is derisively called "pink it and shrink it," offering traditional guns in feminine colors and promoting smaller guns to fit a woman's hand, which is not necessarily a solution as lighter guns have more recoil.

Anna Taylor, founder and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHO
Anna Taylor, founder and CEO of Dene Adams, displays a concealed-carry holster for women at the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Carrie Lightfoot created the Well-Armed Woman in 2012 to give women easier access to information and products and now has 400 chapters across the United States.

Lightfoot said gun makers such as Glock Inc, Sturm Ruger & Company Inc and Walther have since developed more sophisticated products and design changes.

Paul Spitale, a senior vice president at Colt's Manufacturing Company, said the company made famous by the .45-caliber handgun offers a wider range of 9-millimeter options, in part because the 9mm is by far the most popular choice for women.

The female dollar has also affected the traditionally macho culture of guns and hunting. Major gun and ammunition makers now sponsor female competitive shooters.

A woman looks over a Rhino revolver with a two-inch barrel in the Chiappa Firearms booth during the
A woman looks over a Rhino revolver with a two-inch barrel in the Chiappa Firearms booth during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

SHOT Shows used to feature gun-toting models in high heels and push-up bras but exhibition booths now are staffed by knowledgeable women dressed in polo shirts and tactical gear.

"When I walked into my first SHOT Show in 2009, I was stunned" at what she called the "booth babes," said Claudia Chisholm, owner of Gun Tote'n Mamas, a company that makes purses for carrying handguns. "It hasn't caught up yet with the rest of society, but it's a lot better. Thank God."

A woman looks over a semi-automatic handgun Kimber Micro Bel Air, a .380 ACP caliber, during the SH
A woman looks over a semi-automatic handgun Kimber Micro Bel Air, a .380 ACP caliber, during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show in Las Vegas. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Sales of her handbags, designed to enable women to draw within two seconds, have grown 1,000 per cent in the past five years, Chisholm said.

While the US gun rights debate rages, women see their weapons as empowering. At a time when the #MeToo movement has raised awareness of sexual assault, firearms are "the great equaliser," said Dianna Muller, a retired police officer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is now a full-time professional shooter.

"Growing up, my generation of women have been told we can do anything that we want," she said.

Claudia Chisholm, CEO of Gun Tote'n Mamas, and Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Wom
Claudia Chisholm, CEO of Gun Tote'n Mamas, and Carrie Lightfoot, founder of The Well Armed Woman, pose in the Gun Tote'n Mamas booth during the SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show. (Photo: Reuters/Steve Marcus)

Source: Reuters/zl

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