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Jay’s Blog: The Digital and Social Train has Left the Station. Were you Aboard?

Archery pro shops are about so much more than products and technical advice, yet increasing numbers of consumers must be socially or digitally “hooked” before they’ll consider visiting a shop.
Photo Credit: Gravity4.com

Author: Jay McAninch

This past year I heard two things that accelerated my concerns about our industry’s future. My list of concerns was already long, starting with the current lag in high-end bow sales; threats from foreign counterfeit products; the rising tide of chronic wasting disease (CWD) sweeping the country; and the uncertainty of taxes, healthcare, and the freedom to merchandize shooting and hunting equipment.

The two more recent concerns relate to the most significant issue facing our industry. The first item was McDonald’s decision to add mobile order-and-pay capabilities so customers can pick up orders at the counter or get curbside delivery by providing their parking site.

This option from the folks who gave us “Happy Meals” confirms the message all retail businesses hear: Customers learn all they need to know from their mobile devices. They don’t want to talk to store staff, and they don’t want to wait for anything.

My second concern came from several archery retailers who only want customers to visit their shop in person. Further, they want their customers to buy products and learn all they needed to know from themselves and their staff. These shop owners said they hate the internet, websites and all social media. They also wanted their customers to visit the shop for all their archery and bowhunting needs.


“Increasing numbers of consumers must be socially or digitally ‘hooked’ to get them to a shop,” said Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO. “Our hope is that archery retailers will work with us to get those consumers to darken the doorway of your pro shops.” Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

These two concerns, along with all the changes happening in the retail environment, make me worry that too many of our retailers don’t realize the digital and social train has “left the station.” If you don’t believe me, ask the folks at Gander Mountain, Sportsmen’s Warehouse, or any mass merchants in outdoor recreation who, collectively, are experiencing slow sales. Or you can ask former staff from Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, hhgregg, J.C. Penney Co., Sports Authority, RadioShack and many more.

I noted another new reality during a recent meeting with leaders of 16 other outdoor recreation industry trade associations and several CEOs from companies that are doing very well: They no longer make long-range plans. Why? Their companies must be prepared to dramatically change their retailing and customer-relation strategies at least every six months. Each said their greatest challenge was finding ways to engage consumers and making it easy for them to take action.

One of those CEOs – Bob Martin, CEO of THOR Industries – is riding a wave the recreational-vehicle industry hasn’t seen in decades. Martin credits their success to giving consumers what they want, which often isn’t the big “home on wheels.” Instead, it’s sleek, small and very functional motorhomes. The other key feature of their RVs? They’re fully equipped with electronics, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and every other social and digital connection they desire.

The bottom line: Retailing isn’t changing. It has changed.


The ATA’s member services are designed to help retailers grow their businesses, and promote bowhunting and archery nationwide.  “Retailers have started more people in archery than any other group – by far – and retailers keep more people shooting and enjoying archery and bowhunting than anyone,” said ATA President/CEO Jay McAninch. Photo Credit: ATA

The question is this: How do retailers keep up, especially the small, independent shops like many in our industry? It’s a challenge, but we can tackle it TOGETHER! Our ATA staff is ready to help, if only retailers take the time to call or email us. Here’s a sampling of what we offer:

  • ATA ePROATA ePRO is a modern software package that provides retailers with digital tools to run their archery shop and meet the expectations of all customers, especially those who want to communicate and do business with their mobile devices.
  • Modern, effective websites: ATA designed three website templates that give retailers the tools to communicate effectively with their current customers while also engaging potential customers. This platform gives customers basic information while connecting through Facebook and other social media.
  • ATA’s Retail Growth Initiative: The RGI is a comprehensive set of resources that helps independent retail stores grow and succeed. The program’s primary goal is to help retailers recruit new customers, better serve existing customers, and increase their profitability. Some of its resources include:

To borrow a line from the movie “A Few Good Men,” “We need retailers on that front line, we want them on that front line, we have to have them on that front line.” Retailers are the industry’s backbone because they’re the interface with our customers. Retailers have started more people in archery than any other group – by far – and retailers keep more people shooting and enjoying archery and bowhunting than anyone.

Archery pro shops are about so much more than products and technical advice, yet increasing numbers of consumers must be socially or digitally “hooked” to get them to a shop. ATA has platforms like “Archery360” and, soon, “Bowhunting360,” that build awareness and interest that push people to pick up bows and arrows. Our hope is that archery retailers will work with us to get those consumers to darken the doorway of your pro shops. Contact us today. Let’s get people moving your way.

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