Author: Cassie Gasaway
What do candy, prizes and birthday parties have in common? Kids love them!
And what else do most kids love after they try it? Archery! However, kids won’t try archery if they don’t know it exists. That’s a big problem for independent archery retailers and the industry. Why? Because current archers and hunters are aging out of archery sports, which decreases revenue for retailers and nationwide conservation projects.
According to a 2019 consumer market assessment report conducted by McKinley Advisors on behalf of the Archery Trade Association, the typical hunter is a white male between the ages of 45 and 64. As customers age, they become less likely to participate in archery sports.
Thankfully, many ATA members recognize this trend and are recruiting young archers to combat this problem.
Joe Caminati, owner of Average Joes Archery in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, understands the value of attracting new participants, especially younger kids, to his shop.
“If we don’t attract the youth as our archers get older, we lose customers,” Caminati said. “It will be harder and harder to continue to grow the sport if we don’t get new archers.”
Jim Kneeland, owner of Archers Afield in Tigard, Oregon, recruits kids to shoot archery to ensure his shop and the industry survives.
“Hunting has a dying population,” Kneeland said. “We’re not recruiting enough young people, and the older people are thinning out. I invite young people to get involved in recreational archery knowing that a certain number of them will eventually go hunting or try other archery disciplines.”
Ready to grow your retail business and the archery industry? Use these tips to connect the next generation to archery.
Archers Afield has their youth bows set low to the ground, both compound and recurve as pictured above. Photo Credit: Archers Afield
1. Make Archery Visible
Average Joes Archery employees often help with school activities like physical education classes and the National Archery in the Schools Program to help introduce kids to archery.
“We do whatever we can to get in front of the parents and the kids,” Caminati said.
“That involvement creates additional opportunities for [school programs] to grow and opportunities for us to create new customers.”
Meanwhile, Kneeland displays youth bows “practically on the floor,” he said. That way, kids come in and spot them right away, which usually sparks a conversation with their parent.
Although it’s important to make archery visible to youths, it’s equally important to introduce archery to adults, especially because parents control the pocketbook.
Average Joe's Archery hosts youth leagues like the one pictured above. Photo credit: Average Joe's Archery
2. Appeal to the Parents
Often, kids can’t drive or make their own decisions. They rely on their guardians to enroll them in activities, take them to lessons, or buy them equipment.
Archers Afield offers date-night events to encourage couples and parents to try archery. Kneeland said when parents try archery, they often like it and want to introduce it to their kids.
“If you get one person in the family hooked and you’re lucky, they’ll drag the rest of the family in,” he said.
Kris Demeter, store manager for Archers Afield, uses special family-night rates to entice the whole family to shoot. “We like everyone to have the archery experience,” she said.
Archers Afield also reaches out into the community to make archery visible to parents.
Kneeland joined his local chamber of commerce and introduces people to archery through their “Wake up Tigards” events, which give community members the opportunity to tour and learn about different community businesses. He said many parents come through the shop from this event, which helps him explain how archery is a fun, safe and acceptable sport for kids. He believes this connection helps them feel comfortable about enrolling their child in an archery class or lesson.
Kneeland also advertises in the local parks and recreation department catalog as another way to put his business in front of kids and their parents.
Additionally, Caminati said archery needs to be affordable, especially for kids.
“As a parent of three, I know how youth activities can really tax a parent’s pocketbook,” Caminati said. “We try to keep archery lessons and programs affordable to make sure they have the opportunity and desire to come back and try it again.”
Archers Afield gives out bright-colored pencils with fletching to advertise their events. Photo Credit: Archers Afield
3. Host Fun Archery Events
Caminati, Demeter and Kneeland all agree that retailers must make archery fun if they want to appeal to youths.
Archers Afield hosts cosmic archery nights with fun music, colored lights, and flashy targets to interest young audiences. They also average five birthday parties per week where participants get to shoot at balloon targets after a brief archery lesson complete with safety rules and an equipment overview.
The shop also gives away bright-colored pencils with old vanes glued to them to children as souvenirs. Kneeland said the kids love them. He also attaches a flyer to the pencils to advertise birthday parties, family nights, date nights, and other events.
Caminati has his young archers play shooting games, or shoot at zombie or animal targets to get them smiling and laughing.
“We want kids to be safe and have fun, and not be focused on, or intimidated by, the score when they start,” he said.
That approach and introduction gives students the energy and confidence to continue with the sport if they want to.
Average Joes Archery also uses summer camps, youth leagues, a techno hunt simulator, and a Junior Olympic Archery Development program to attract youth.
Click here for more tips to recruit young archers.
Provide Next-Step Opportunities
Once you interest kids in recreational archery, keep them engaged, entertained and craving more. Caminati and Kneeland said once kids are hooked, it’s best to show them their options and introduce them to other archery disciplines, including bowhunting, bowfishing, 3D archery, and competition archery. Chances are, they’ll likely dabble in other disciplines, which helps them find their niche, and helps you expand your business and make more money.
You can help students explore their archery options by offering next-step classes or programs. Read the ATA article “How to Offer Archery Programs and Classes in 4 Simple Steps” for guidance. Teaching classes, hosting events and providing follow-up opportunities helps create lifelong customers, too.
Caminati suggests retailers be patient and open-minded when working with youths. He said experienced shooters usually enter his shop with a specific need, but retailers have to help create and shape that need in a new shooter.
“It takes more work [to support youth archers], but it’s more rewarding because you get to watch them grow,” he said. “And as they grow and come back, they become lifelong, dedicated customers.”
To learn more about attracting youth and providing archery programs, contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, at email@example.com.