Author: Cassie Scott
How far would you go to make your retail shop more profitable?
His takeaway: “Become an archery business, not an archery shop.”
Sampson’s father was an avid hunter. He remembers 26 bird dogs during his childhood, and attributes his hunting interests to his father and an uncle. Even so, Sampson didn’t hunt much until after high school, when his brother Jeff introduced him to bowhunting. He was hooked instantly.
James Sampson incorporated Havana Outdoors in Havana, Illinois, in January 2015. He made the store a family business by enrolling his wife, Jan, as its chief financial officer, and his son, Jake, as its chief technology officer. Photo Credit: Havana Outdoors via Facebook
Fast forward to 2016.
While conducting research to develop a sound business plan in his first year of business, Sampson stumbled upon ArcheryTrade.org. The information, people and opportunities available at the ATA Trade Show persuaded him to become an ATA member so he could attend the Show. “I wanted access to all those things,” Sampson said.
With his mind buzzing and business booming, he attended the 2016 ATA Trade Show to gather fresh ideas and meet like-minded entrepreneurs. That was his second ATA Show, but his first time working with ATA staff to flesh out and improve his business strategy.
Sampson and his team met with Nicole Nash, the ATA’s manager of retail programs, to learn about the Retail Growth Initiative, an ATA program that helps retailers develop recreational archery in their communities.
Nash helped the Havana Outdoors’ crew upgrade their store’s plans, and learn about programs and services to grow and benefit their business.
Sampson also received his Level 1 archery instructor certification at the 2016 Show, and then earned his Level 2 certification at this year’s Show. Several of his employees also got certified to teach archery while at the Show.
Join the ATA for a Positive Partnership
Several Havana Outdoors employees earned their Level 1 and 2 instructor certifications at the ATA Trade Show. This certification enables them to expand their offerings and reach new customers. Photo Credit: Havana Outdoors via Facebook
With his new-found knowledge and Nash’s help, Sampson made several changes and additions at his downtown Havana location.
“We took Nicole’s advice and redid our shop to tailor it more toward archers, not just bowhunters,” Sampson said. “We’re creating a new logo, too, because we don’t want to leave out archers. Hunters are a big part of our business and always will be, but the potential out there is with new archers: the moms, kids, families and that segment, which we’re just now bringing into archery.”
With their certifications in place, the team began offering archery classes at their store. They also advertised the classes on their revamped website, which Jake remodeled using ATA-created RGI resources.
The group offered equipment rentals, created archery leagues, and started a Scholastic 3-D Archery club. They’re also now using ATA ePRO, a software package designed by archery retailers for archery retailers to make pro shops more productive and profitable.
Sampson and Craig also read articles on ArcheryTrade.org to learn about new skills, programs and strategies to grow archery. They’re also learning more about archery-specific federal excise taxes under the members-only portal on the ATA website.
Engage In Your Community to go Above and Beyond
In the past year Havana Outdoors increased income from its lanes by 69 percent, primarily with leagues, tournaments and daily shooters. Photo Credit: Havana Outdoors via Facebook
Besides listening and engaging with the ATA, its staff and programs, Sampson goes out into his community to get customers.
“We probably have about 150 to 300 people walk through our door during an average week, and during the busy season we may see 500 people,” Sampson said. “But we really don’t stop there. We don’t wait for customers to walk through our door. We go out into the community, participate in community events, and get new archers involved.”
The Havana Outdoors team is visible at community and church events around their area. They bring archery equipment and help people play fun archery games in safe, controlled settings. They also hand out fliers about upcoming events and programs, with their contact information listed alongside.
“We love going to festivals and events because it’s an opportunity for us to get with new, potential archery shooters,” Sampson said. “We saw over 400 people at the last event we attended. Plus, the cities and towns really love this because it’s something they haven’t seen before.”
The ATA Helps Create Successful, Profitable Businesses
Havana Outdoors is dedicated to reaching new archers, not just bowhunters. “Hunters are a big part of our business and always will be,” said CEO James Sampson. “But the potential out there is with new archers: the moms, kids, families and that segment, which we’re just now bringing into archery.” Photo Credit: Havana Outdoors via Facebook
In the past year Havana Outdoors increased income from its lanes by 69 percent, primarily with leagues, tournaments and daily shooters. It also generated a 50-percent increase in total sales, thanks to its new facility and expanded programs.
“Those percentages validate what the ATA is trying to tell everyone, which is basically become an archery business, not an archery shop,” Sampson said. “Make archery engaging for the customer. Get them excited about archery and make it part of their life. When you do that, the business will follow.”
Sampson and his team never stop looking for ways to improve. They’re offering ATA’s Explore Bowfishing program in May, and will follow up by teaching Explore Bowhunting in July to get people interested and prepared for hunting season.
Sampson also contacted the police department to get permission to shoot at the nearby river because the town has a “no shooting” ordinance. The state council approved the waiver, so Sampson can use the waterway in town to teach Explore Bowfishing.
Sampson’s eye-opening success inspires him to encourage other shops to be more active in their communities.
“Make the commitment to be an archery business,” Sampson said. “A lot of us get into this because we’re archers, and it would be nice to make money from our hobbies. But that’s not the way to look at this. You have to run it as a business. Don’t just buy products for yourself. Buy products that appeal to the masses. Go out and engage customers. That’s key, but most of all, go in with capital and a business plan. Have everything in order to run a successful business.”
Nash has enjoyed watching Havana Outdoors develop and grow.
“(The ATA is) here to help, and we want to see the retailer succeed,” Nash said. “When they succeed, the archery industry benefits. I’m thankful Havana Outdoors is willing to hear and listen to our advice, and consider what needs must be met. James and his team give everyone an opportunity to experience archery through multiple avenues. They create an archery home for the customer at any level and style of archery. That’s impressive.”