Author: Cassie Gasaway
Would you rather have four months of steady income or 12? What a no-brainer, huh?
Although the buildup to bowhunting season is prime time for most archery businesses, it’s possible for retailers to generate business that creates sales and customers year-round.
We spoke with Miles and Kelli Blair, owners of The Arrow Shop in Dewey, Oklahoma, to learn how they get the most from their archery business all year long.
The Arrow Shop built an indoor range when they had the space and watched their business grow. Photo Credit: The Arrow Shop
Build a Range
The Blairs bought their business a few years ago, and operated out of a small retail space. They relied on the months around hunting season to sustain them year-round. They couldn’t offer lessons, and they had few ways to market archery’s various disciplines. But then their business blossomed when they moved to a space with room for an indoor range.
“(Now) we can take advantage of events and activities year-round, which expands our reach to hunters and target shooters,” Kelli Blair said.
She said hunting is still much of their focus, but the range expanded their opportunities and attracts more business. Their hunting customers also like to practice, shoot leagues, and attend events in their offseason or in bad weather. Use the ATA’s Archery Range Guides to weigh your options. Click here to learn more.
Try Something New
Many archers settle into one discipline soon after starting, so the Blairs encourage customers to try different archery disciplines.
“Especially with newer customers or those who strictly hunt, we let them know about our indoor range,” Kelli Blair said. “Shooting year-round can keep them in better shape and practice for hunting season.”
By helping customers participate in 3D, recreational or competitive archery, the Blairs turn one customer into two or three when they buy gear for other disciplines. Don’t assume customers have only one archery interest. Show them options, including bowfishing, and encourage them to shoot year-round to stay sharp.
The Blairs even tell customers about shops and ranges that might be closer to home, open at different times, or stocked with other products. They believe active archers are good for the industry. They also share information about events to encourage customers to branch out.
Events like date night, ladies night, or youth leagues are a great way to generate foot traffic year-round. Photo Credit: The Arrow Shop
Hold Events, Expand Opportunities
Give people a reason to visit your shop monthly. Provide opportunities to improve their skills, try something new, and stay engaged.
The Arrow Shop offers opportunities for all ages, including leagues, fun shoots, indoor tournaments, individual lessons, couples or ladies-only nights, corporate team-building events, and holiday parties for work or church groups. Customers can also participate in Explore Archery programs or join the Junior Olympic Archery Development club.
Try Something Unique
– On-site Hunter Education Courses
The Arrow Shop partners with the state wildlife agency and a local game warden to teach an on-site hunter-education course where participants can learn in a more interactive environment than online courses. The course also attracts newcomers, which allows the Blairs to show potential customers their range, products and educational options.
– Dinner and a Workshop
The Blairs have invited a professional hunter from South Africa to tell customers about hunting overseas. They provide dinner and encourage customers to ask questions and visit with the guest.
– Jackpot Events
“Jackpot events” are good ways to attract busy people year-round. Archers pay to participate in a same-day competition to win the jackpot. The Blairs hold week-to-week jackpot events in summer when there’s less foot traffic. These flexible events don’t require a league’s multi-week commitments, which works well for those juggling summer trips or activities.
To help customers feel welcome and comfortable, The Arrow Shop gathers a group to carpool or caravan to distant events. Blair said road trips generate camaraderie, and help those who dislike traveling alone feel safe and supported at big events. As a COVID-19 precaution, consider wearing masks in the car if riders live in different households.
Encourage your customers to come back in for a bow check-up during the off season. Photo Credit: The Arrow Shop
Bonus Tip: Schedule Gear Check-ups
Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, encourages retailers to invite customers to annual equipment check-ups.
“People have an annual dentist and doctor exam visit,” Nash said. “Why not use this strategy for your shop? Each time someone buys a bow, schedule their return in six months or the one-year mark for a quick inspection. Use the appointment to discuss bow maintenance or new products, and encourage them to attend a class or join your league.”
Blair also encourages customers to get their equipment repaired or serviced before the busy season. This strategy helps push and expand business opportunities into other months. Click here to learn how service deals pull people in early.
Bonus Tip: Hold Annual Sales
Kurt Smith, ATA’s director of industry relations, recommends retailers schedule annual sales regularly.
“Most big box stores have the same sales around the same time each year,” Smith said. “Customers get trained to look for sales and shop that time of the year. To capitalize, schedule annual sales throughout the year and keep them consistent year to year. Predictable sales help during slower months.”
Know the Commitment
Blair suggests retail shops strive for year-round business, but plan carefully and grow with caution while expanding offerings.
Extra year-round revenue is excellent for business, but it has tradeoffs. Building a range or holding more events can increase overhead expenses and require additional liability insurance.
Plus, if you have a small operation and few staff, be patient and balance your business commitments. If you promote recreational archery, you must accommodate newcomers who want to try it now, even if it’s the middle of hunting season.
Unsure where to start? Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.