Yesterday morning, I listened to the on-line stockholders’ report from Sturm, Ruger Inc., delivered by Mike Fifer, the current CEO.
I had the impression of an honest man giving honest answers to honest questions.
I knew and admired the late Bill Ruger, Sr., the company founder. He was always proud that his corporation had no debt. That’s still true today. Too bad we never elected a man like that to run the whole damn country. Congrats to Fifer and his crew for keeping that paradigm intact.
Item: there are some 300 different SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units, or specifically different products) now being shipped out of the Ruger plants in Newport, NH and Prescott, AZ.
Item: the newly introduced products are the ones that are selling best. Welcome to typical American consumer values. “We want new! We want it now!” (That’s me talking, folks, not Fifer…but apparently Fifer is seeing the same thing.) The small frame LCR revolver introduced last January, and the LCP .380 pistol introduced the year before, figure hugely in those massive sales, which seem to be up somewhere around two-thirds higher than the previous year.
Item: innovation is alive and well in American gunmaking. Said Fifer, “We took orders for three times what we thought the best case scenario would be, during the first 48 hours of the (2008) SHOT Show. (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade, the primary industry show in the firearms world). We’ve been adding engineers left and right, made offers to two this week, and are still looking for more.” Concluded Fifer, “I don’t think we have enough new products.” Fifer later added that while there are teams working on new platform products, established products are still getting “line extension” – modifications that better suit them for specific purposes for which a market has been identified. The bottom line is that new projects are getting the most attention.
This blogger’s take…
Fifer has done his homework. He has under his command some of the most brilliant engineers currently working in the firearms industry, and some of the most savvy marketing folks who best understand the real motivations of the people who buy guns.
Personally, I was impressed as hell with their SR556 interpretation of the AR15 rifle. Fifer was candid enough to say in his talk to the stockholders, “There were some cost overruns on the SR556, but it will be a good long term product for us.” (Damn, in this blog several months ago, I TOLD ya the SR556 would be a good buy for the consumer. When the manufacturer admits it costs too much for him to make, that’s nature’s way of telling the consumer he just got a helluva deal.)
Fifer and his people get out and go into gun shops. They talk to consumers. (Interact with those who buy and sell what you make? THERE’S an idea whose time has come!) They’ve noted that empty shelves are filling back up again, more with guns than with ammunition.
Bottom line? Ruger is a profitable company to invest in because it listens to its end-user marketplace. That’s what makes companies successful in this country. That’s what Bill Ruger, Sr. did to make his company successful.
I still remember standing beside Bill Senior’s grave on the day of his funeral…but right now, I have to think he would be proud of where his company has gone since he left us.
Ruger’s LCR, introduced this year, is selling extremely well.