PHOENIX — Smith & Wesson, one of the country's most recognizable brands, is taking aim at consumers' love of the American West by going into the catalog business selling cowboy-boot lamps and studded velvet jackets.
Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., the gun maker's Scottsdale, Ariz.-based parent company, wants to attract new customers with the launch today of the Crossings by Smith & Wesson catalog. The catalog and its Web site are part of Smith & Wesson Interactive Management, the parent company's newest division.
"We're trying to reach a more dynamic mix of customers, and we're pushing the brand name as much as we can," said Colton Melby, president of Smith & Wesson Holding. "The opportunity to get out and make the name known in different circles, that's what we're after."
Catalogs offering teakwood tables, horse-head soap-dish sets, cigar-store Indian ornaments, faux elephant-suede skirts, turquoise-rimmed jewelry and copper silk shantung blouses should begin arriving in homes this week, said Amy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Smith & Wesson Holding.
About 70% of consumers targeted by the catalogs are not current Smith and Wesson customers, Melby said. The company is targeting women 30 to 60 years old who are homeowners and have higher incomes than the U.S. average, Armstrong said.
Company officials would not predict sales from the catalog business.
An estimated 148 million Americans shop from home, according to Direct Marketing Assn. Inc.
Smith & Wesson's home and fashion catalog venture follows the gun maker's attempts to rebound from slumping handgun sales.
Sales began to drop after some consumers abandoned the company, angry over its 2000 agreement with the Clinton administration to install safety locks on all its guns and adopt other safety measures and marketing changes.
Gun rights supporters had accused Smith & Wesson of selling out, and some vowed to boycott the company. Still, nearly 87% of Americans recognize the 151-year-old Smith & Wesson brand, according to the company.
The Smith & Wesson logo appears on some items in the catalog, but it's not always displayed prominently.
From a business sense, the catalog is a way to expose more people to the brand, said Jim Gardner, editor of San Diego-based Guns Magazine. "Not everybody is going to buy a $900 weapon, but they might like that brand," he said.
Smith & Wesson Holding also licenses the company's name for use on golf clubs and markets flashlights and police and consumer bikes.
By launching unrelated products, gun manufacturers are seeking wider acceptance, said Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center.
"One of the things the gun industry has pushed for is to get away from the image as something sinister and portray the industry as a sport," said Diaz, author of "Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America."