Author: Cassie Gasaway
Do you welcome and acknowledge female customers?
In a survey of over 750 women, the organization Shoot Like a Girl found that 32% of women don’t get waited on at sporting-goods stores, and 11% feel ignored. Combined, almost half of women surveyed receive no help at outdoor retail stores. That neglect often annoys, frustrates, disappoints or insults them.
That’s a problem for customers, retail shops and the outdoor industry. If we don’t respect and serve women, they’ll likely pursue other hobbies and take their business elsewhere. Women play a vital role in preserving and growing America’s shooting sports, and we need even more of them in our ranks.
Consider: A National Shooting Sports Foundation report found 46% of boys and 13% of girls participate in shooting sports when fathers participate. But when the mother and father shoot, participation rates jump to 64% for boys and 50% for girls.
In other words, females create next-generation hunters at higher rates than do males. Plus, women control 85% of U.S. consumer spending, so they often make their family’s buying decisions. That means archery retailers must recognize that females — including kids, teens and adults — are powerful consumers.
Karen Butler, president of SLG2 Inc., and Linda Lainchbury, co-owner of Attitude Archery in Auckland, New Zealand, know retailers can help generate more female customers. Use these tips to get started.
Assume every woman in your store is a potential customer. Ask them questions and encourage them. Photo Credit: Shoot Like a Girl
Change Your Mindset
According to a 2015 ATA study, 34% of America’s 23.8 million archers are female. Another survey, the National Sporting Goods Association’s 2018 Annual Sports Participation Report, found that 21.1% of the nation’s 18 million-plus hunters in 2017 are female.
Even so, if a woman walks into an archery store with two men, employees too often assume the woman doesn’t shoot archery. Butler and Lainchbury said ATA members must treat every person entering their store as a potential customer.
Lainchbury said retailers who assume women are simply accompanying their husband or children lose customers and profits. She takes another approach. After all, Attitude Archery services over 1,500 customers annually, and 500 of them are female. She expects women to be archers, which improves interactions and customer relationships.
“We expect [females in our shop] are here to make a purchase, make inquiries on coaching for them or their family, or to start archery themselves,” Lainchbury said. “We are well-known for that, and women love coming into the shop.”
Butler said it’s hard to go wrong if you treat every woman as a customer. Even if that woman is a bystander today, she might be a customer tomorrow. “[She’ll remember] a positive experience where you valued her enough to engage her as a potential customer,” Butler said. “She’ll probably come back when she’s ready to try archery.”
Butler said most women wait to get helped. Lainchbury agreed, saying most beginners or first-time customers lack confidence or feel out of place. Therefore, they don’t initiate contact.
Lainchbury trains her staff to smile and make eye contact with all customers, and then approach them with a greeting and follow-up question about their participation. For example, “Are you an archer?” or “Do you shoot archery?” The customer’s answer guides staff in tailoring their approach to best help.
Butler said improving your approach to women will increase sales. After all, you might be approaching a seasoned or Olympic archer who could coach you and your staff.
Engage with women of all ages and encourage their interest in the sport early by offering archery at different events. Photo Credit: Attitude Archery
Never forget that archery’s popularity among women offers great sales opportunities. Given that 34% of America’s archers are female, but only 4% of Americans shoot archery, you could have hundreds of potential archery customers entering your store every few weeks.
Butler encourages ATA retailers to reach out to women and invite them to try archery, or even hire them. Also visit schools, libraries, churches and workplaces to discuss shooting sports. Exhibit at community events, such as fall festivals, county fairs and farmers’ markets. Don’t wait for customers to come to you. Go to them. And never judge them by their age, looks or social status. Butler said you’ll surprised by the “type” of women interested in archery.
Lainchbury said she meets females who doubt themselves before trying archery or after shooting only one round. They’ll say they’re too weak or uncoordinated to shoot a bow, or that they don’t belong on a range and can’t hit anything. They’ll say “It’s just not for me.”
Lainchbury assures them archery is fun for everyone, as long as they use the right equipment. She shows them her equipment and photos of females shooting archery. Then she works with them individually to make them comfortable and confident.
Conduct an experiment to make sure that your employees are interacting with women the same way they do men. Photo Credit: Attitude Archery
Evaluate Your Business
Butler also encourages retailers to conduct “secret shopping” operations in their stores. That means hiring someone to visit your store, interact with sales staff, buy something, and then report their experience to you. Secret shoppers reveal how your employees treat customers. They identify shortcomings, correct or adapt them, and improve customers’ shopping experiences.
Focus on a female’s in-shop experience. Ask trusted women to visit your shop and assess its cleanliness, inclusiveness, wait time, atmosphere, service quality, and customer service. Their opinions and evaluations detect problems and improve performance.
Need help welcoming and working with female customers? Butler’s company, SLG2 Consulting, offers in-depth retail-sales training. Her staff will visit your store to teach employees how to interact and work with female customers. Please email email@example.com to request pricing and information.
Remember Your Peers
While you evaluate your interactions with female customers, show respect for females in the outdoor industry, whether they work as retailers, like Lainchbury; or for organizations or associations, like Butler.
Most women in the archery/bowhunting industry can recall disrespectful interactions with male peers or customers. Demonstrate support for female archers, bowhunters and bowhunting advocates. They’re vital resources.
Questions? Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s manager of range and retail programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 266-2776, ext. 116.