Retail

How is COVID-19 Affecting Retailers, and How do They Adapt?

COVID-19 affected business for the entire archery industry. Here’s how two retailers are navigating the pandemic’s challenges.
Photo Credit: La Crosse Archery

Author: Taylor Walston

COVID-19 changed how retailers conduct business, causing them to constantly adapt and find new ways to connect with customers. We spoke with two retailers who introduced safety guidelines and curbside pickup while continuing to provide excellent customer service. Let’s review how those changes are affecting their businesses.

La Crosse Archery updated their guidelines during their closure. Photo Credit: La Crosse Archery

Laura Rosenthal and Anthony Schmidt, owners of La Crosse Archery in Onalaska, Wisconsin

La Crosse Archery recently closed for two weeks because of a COVID-19 outbreak at their shop that infected and/or exposed the entire staff. Rosenthal and Schmidt closed the store so their employees could quarantine, and hired a cleaning service to deep-clean and disinfect the building with UV light.

During the closure, they also evaluated their guidelines and imposed new procedures to better protect employees and customers. “Prior to our closure, we weren’t as diligent regarding mask-wearing on the range,” Rosenthal said. “Since being ill, we’ve gotten religious in this regard and require masks. Period. This is for the safety of our customers and staff.”

La Crosse Archery also limits its range to 50% capacity to comply with the state’s current requirements. “We increased our cleaning service to twice a week, and increased our staff cleanings throughout the day,” Rosenthal said.

The upcoming winter league includes updated guidelines, which require archers to sign up for a specific time to limit their number for each slot. “We post weekly scores on the website, so our customers are familiar with using the website for registration and scores,” Rosenthal said. She thinks those small adjustments will make big differences in protecting their customers and employees.

Rosenthal and Schmidt updated customers about the guidelines, and maintained a strong social-media presence throughout the pandemic. “We stepped it up a notch, adding videos and the like during shutdowns” to address customer feedback, Rosenthal said.

La Crosse Archery also stays connected to customers with Zoom and Facetime appointments. Rosenthal said customers take advantage of virtual appointments because they expect and appreciate the attention from La Crosse Archery. Meanwhile, new archers keep walking into the store to use its range. La Crosse Archery won’t offer lessons until spring, but Rosenthal and Schmidt keep an instructor on the range to help beginners most of the season.

 

Randy Phillips, owner of Archery Headquarters in Chandler, Arizona

Archery Headquarters adjusted quickly after four employees left the shop because of COVID-19 health-and-safety concerns. Phillips and another employee manage the business five days a week instead of six, and close earlier and open later than before the pandemic. The shortened hours inspired a new system that Phillips enjoys and intends to keep. He said they used to repair bows during the evenings while the store was open, but now do that work after business hours end. This system lets Phillips give full attention to customers during the day.

And even though lessons are no longer as profitable because Phillips must restrict class sizes to six archers, sales and service profits skyrocketed. In fact Phillips said they’re enjoying their best year. He’s also optimistic that interest in lessons will skyrocket once the pandemic ends. Phillips thinks new archers will be eager to hit the range and perfect their technique after practicing on their own.

Phillips said many new archers come in as families, and say they tried archery while camping, or when watching friends shoot, and it inspired them to buy bows. “They’re generally open-minded about what kind of bow to buy because it’s all new to them,” Phillips said.

However, he advises retailers not to push products they think a customer needs. “Slow down and listen to customers,” Phillips said. “They’ll tell you what they want.”

Phillips emphasizes working with customers’ budgets while showing them they can afford archery. Retailers should also encourage beginners to practice on their own for now, and return for lessons when the range reopens.

Archery Headquarters also uses its online store to let customers browse inventory and learn what’s in stock. Phillips said customers aren’t buying his products online, but his online store is generating sales and inspiring visits to the store to inspect products they saw in the online store. These customers come in knowing what they want and whether it’s in stock.

 

Common Ground

Even though Archery Headquarters and La Crosse Archery practice different business procedures, they share similar experiences.

  • New Archers: Both retailers confirmed increases in new archers, who are excited to buy equipment and eager to practice on their own.
  • Curbside Pickup: Archery Headquarters and La Crosse Archery offer curbside pickup, but said their customers seldom use it. Customers tell Phillips they appreciate the option even though they don’t use it.
  • Store Hours: Both shops shortened their store hours, and plan to keep those hours for the foreseeable future. The new hours work for them. They see no reason to go back.

Both retailers watched to see what works in their shop during the pandemic, and focused their efforts in those areas. They also learned areas that needed improvements, and adjusted.

 

Keep Going

The pandemic requires businesses to be more flexible than ever. “Don’t accept what you’ve been doing for 25 years, because it doesn’t apply today,” Phillips said.

If you must shorten your business hours or update your COVID-19 guidelines, make the change. COVID-19 might change how you conduct business, but it doesn’t have to change the quality of your service. You will keep attracting customers as long as you value their safety and offer the customer service they expect from your shop.

Questions? Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, at (502) 640-0944 or nicolenash@archerytrade.org.

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