The first bow for many archers is a simple stick and string with no sights or gadgets. But that basic equipment never stops anyone from having fun launching arrows at targets. Even for longtime compound-bow archers, shooting a traditional bow turns them back into kids.
Although compound-bow archery is America’s most popular archery discipline, growing numbers of archers prefer traditional archery for its fun, simplicity, romance and lower costs. And when you also consider that traditional bows are common in movies and TV shows that inspire new archers, it’s easy to see why they’re increasingly popular.
To cash in on this market, you must stock the right gear and gain the necessary knowledge. One person who knows that business is Tom Clum of Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. He’s owned a brick-and-mortar archery shop for over 20 years, and until two years ago he sold only traditional equipment.
Why Sell Traditional Gear?
Traditional archery is a gateway to new customers who want a simple bow that’s fun to shoot and relatively inexpensive. Photo Credit: Ryan Kirby
You should sell traditional equipment because the market demands it. By meeting consumers’ needs, you’ll enjoy greater profits while helping more people shoot archery.
“At least half of the new archers walking through your door will want traditional equipment,” Clum said. “In this new age of archery, it’s more than that. Selling traditional equipment makes you a well-rounded shop that can service any customer walking through the door.”
Traditional archery is a gateway to new customers who want a simple bow that’s fun to shoot and relatively inexpensive.
“A significant amount, if not the majority, of people getting into archery start on the ‘trad’ side because it’s much less expensive,” Clum said. The bows are also less expensive for you to keep in inventory, which is a win-win for shop owners.
Beyond budget-minded beginners, other potential traditional customers are compound archers or bowhunters looking for new challenges. “A steady pace of people are switching from compounds to recurves,” Clum said.
Most archery-store owners know their area’s archers. Still, don’t assume you know everything about them. Also talk to folks at archery clubs and every traditional archer you know. Ask if they’re seeing more interest in recurves and longbows. Once you’re sure expanding your inventory is a savvy business move, you’ll need to know what to order.
Stocking several draw weights and lengths lets you fit each archer with equipment that’s fun to shoot. Most people shoot a much lower draw weight in a “trad” bow than a compound bow. Photo Credit: John Hafner
Clum suggests stocking an entry-level bow in several draw weights and lengths. Keep the draw weights between 14 and 30 pounds, and match the bow length to the archer’s draw length. In general, longer draw lengths need longer bows.
Stocking several draw weights and lengths lets you fit each archer with equipment that’s fun to shoot. “If you give them the tools to get on the target and have fun, they’ll be back,” Clum said.
Most people shoot a much lower draw weight in a “trad” bow than a compound bow. “Start them with something they can handle comfortably and with proper form,” Clum said.
That can be challenging for new shooters, however, because they’ll have to buy a bow and upgrade later to a heavier draw weight. That’s why Clum offers a trade-in program. “We tell them to keep the bow in good shape, and when they’re ready to move up in draw weight they give us the bow back plus $50, and we’ll give them the same bow in higher draw weight,” he said. “I’ll then take their bow, discount it by $25, and sell it used.”
This program removes a customer’s fear that they’ll get stuck with a bow or have to grow into a bow that’s too heavy for them. In addition to the trade-in program, Clum offers everyone a free lesson, which he thinks is critical for retaining customers. He teaches traditional customers proper form, and how to aim with the arrow point.
“Typically, we start people off shooting three-under with a very high anchor,” Clum said. This shooting style is popular among top barebow archers, and lets new archers use the tip of their arrow as an aiming reference. Aiming shortens the learning curve and, with proper form, delivers good accuracy.
If you want to add more traditional archery to your shop, here’s a recommended list of items to stock.
Traditional Archery Order List:
- Beginner bows, 14 to 40 pounds and various lengths in each weight.
- Finger tabs: Split-finger and three-under;
- Bow stringers;
- Light spine (500 to 700 spine) arrows fletched with feathers;
- Bow cases