TheGunBlog.ca — Tenda Canada Inc., an online gun store, says it aims to keep prices low to attract new people to the shooting sports. Industry experts estimate the company has grown so fast that it’s now one of the country’s top firearm retailers. But some suppliers say they’ve stopped deliveries over how Tenda does business.
In the following interview, Steve Kuang, Tenda’s founder and owner, discusses his company, strategy, and relations with the industry.
We met at the Canadian Sporting Arms and Ammunition Association’s Trade Show East in Ottawa on Feb. 11.
Tenda is based in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill.
The interview was edited for clarity.
Where does the name “Tenda” come from?
It’s a name given by my wife.
We have an Asian background, and in Mandarin it suggests hope for a growing business. I think that would be the best way to translate it.
When did you found the company?
We opened in June 2015.
How many full-time employees do you have?
Seven. We are a small, family-owned company.
Seven including you, or seven plus one including you?
Seven plus one, like a 1911. [We laugh.]
How do you offer such low prices?
We are a new business, and we have lots of exposure. We are aggressive at marketing. We do a great job of marketing, and so people think we have the lowest price. But we don’t. I can show you lots of examples of stores that offer lower prices than we do.
Can you say more?
There’s a lot more than price in the buying decision. There’s the product, plus service, plus price.
For people who don’t have guns, we have events for them. They can come and look at guns and handle them to decide what they like, but of course, they can’t fire them.
We also offer courses with TDSA. We organize events via Facebook. We have range days where people can try firearms.
[Kuang describes his experience with golf, where high costs for equipment and club memberships prevent people from participating.]
We’re trying to get more people into the shooting sports so they can enjoy them and have fun.
What would you call your approach?
If I could summarize it in a few words, it’s “wholesaling to consumers.” Like Costco.
What’s special about your marketing?
We are aggressive on price. We get good reviews.
We are aggressive on marketing. Our whole team works day and night, seven days a week.
We started with 20 guns, now we offer 2,000.
Some people in the industry estimate that you are now one of the biggest independent gun stores in Canada. I know that’s speculative because companies keep their accounts private, but is it realistic?
[I show him my list of major retailers: Bass Pro Shops-Cabela’s and Canadian Tire at the top, followed by Tenda, Al Flaherty’s Outdoor Store, Ellwood Epps Sporting Goods, Wolverine Supplies, Firearms Outlet Canada, Calgary Shooting Centre, SAIL, Wanstalls, Reliable Gun, West World Sooting Centre, and others.]
I don’t think so. They are all excellent stores. We’re really very small. I think those guys are way better than us.
[He points at the names on the list.]
I bought my first gun from Al Flaherty’s more than 10 years ago, a Glock 17.
Wanstalls has a huge collection of 1911s. Much bigger than ours.
FOC is so strong on marketing. For Valentine’s Day last year, they had a deal that if you bought a gun, you got a rose.
How are your relations with distributors?
[I show my list of Canada’s largest gun wholesalers, including North Sylva, Big Rock Sports, Bowmac Gunpar, Wolverine Supplies, Beretta/Stoeger, and M.D. Charlton.]
I think we still have really good relations with distributors and factories. We’re increasing our product lines and will have more products available.
We’re so thankful that we have a lot of great distributors in Canada.
Some companies have told me they stopped supplying you. Do you do business with all of them?
Yes, at the moment we do.
What could explain why people question your prices and practices? Are they jealous? Are they angry that they can’t match you?
It’s when you are new in the business, and we have a lot of exposure.
Price is important, but it’s not the most important. If you have the best price but no service or warranty, that’s not going to lead to long-term success.
We’re not the lowest guys, not the biggest guys, but we definitely have lots of exposure.
Do you have any plans to become a distributor or importer?
No, not at this time.
What do you do differently than other companies?
In the beginning, we ordered from everybody and we looked at how we could improve things.
For example, improved packaging. When you order a gun, the package needs to be solid. From outside, nobody should be able to tell what’s inside.
We try to improve purchasing: when we purchase, how much we purchase, our purchasing technique. We lower our costs.
We don’t have a showroom. We don’t have a lot of people working for us. We try to lower our expenses.
How did you get into this business?
We got into this business by accident. I was in cabinetry. I have been in cabinetry for eight years and I still do that.
I got into shooting and competition, IPSC. One day we were ordering some supplies. Some friends wanted us to order projectiles for them. It started with 10 cases. Then 100. Then 1,000.
What’s your biggest challenge?
The most challenging thing is: how to get more people involved in shooting sports.
A lot of people still think a gun is related to criminals. They see it as a weapon. From our point of view, it is not a weapon. It is a sporting tool.
How significant are the government’s planned Firearms Marking Regulations to restrict imports?
We’ve been working on this since last year. It’s a bad thing for all of us.
What are your favourite guns?
At the moment: STI Exclusive (.40), CZ Shadow 2 (9 mm), Glock 17 (9 mm).
What’s your home club?
Sharon Gun Club. [About 60 km north of Toronto.]
What keeps you busy these days, what keeps you up at night?
I have a lot of meetings. I shoot IPSC. I reload my own ammo. I’m studying Cerakote.
I’m always trying to bring new ideas to the business, like how to make products stronger and more durable.
Any final thoughts?
If we keep prices high, it’s harder for people to get into shooting.
If we keep prices low, more people can get into it, and more people can buy more.
We want the cost to be low so more people can get into the shooting sports.
(Correction, 15 Feb.: Corrects name of CZ Shadow 2.)