As owners or employees of a shop that is a facet of the greater outdoor industry, we can all, at a moment’s notice, tell great stories about our experiences that make us love the sport of archery. These stories typically include a reference to a close friend, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt or other relative who shared these moments with us. In today’s world, however, many people entering our sport have no close friend or family member to be a mentor and start them on their journey of enjoyment and success, be it in recreational shooting, hunting or competition. Without that mentor to supply them with skills, information and even equipment, new participants may struggle to find an entry point. People are leaning on retail venues more and more to be their mentor and “trusted friend” to guide them. This requires a major shift in not only how we engage with our customers but also how we present products within our stores.
Give customers the option of renting their equipment. Photo Credit: ATA
First, we must accept the fact that, now more than ever, we need to train our customer-facing staff and design our stores to be as welcoming as possible to curious people who are in the early learning phase. These customers will take up more time, effort and patience from our staff. We, as pro shop owners and employees, need to understand that we may not be able to close a profitable sale right away. This is a critical juncture. To some employees, it may feel like a customer is just shopping in your store with the intent to buy elsewhere. Train your staff to shrug off this instinct and instead focus on giving the customer the best experience possible. Ranges have a major advantage here, as new participants to the industry often want to “rent” the sport for a while until they see this as a long-term pastime. To recruit new participants, it is imperative, and I am sure I am preaching to the choir, to have a robust rental option for your customers. By robust, I mean offering a wide array of models that reflect the key SKUs of bows in inventory. A great rental program gives our team the opportunity to talk to customers one on one, conveying great stories and learning more about their aspirations to help tailor their journey toward becoming a lifetime archer.
A tactic shops can employ to increase engagement, particularly during slow seasons, is to share reasons to participate in our space. Shops must teach sales staff to solve problems, not sell products. They must tell customers why archery is a great lifestyle. In other words, it’s hard to sell a bag of flour unless the customer realizes how good bread tastes. Think of the “field to fork” movement, which has increased interest in hunting. Some of this was spurred during the COVID-19 crisis, as hunting was truly a textbook “social distancing” activity. But people also realized that — or justified their participation in hunting because of the view that — wild-caught game was a healthier option than store-bought protein. Now that the height of the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, how can we keep this movement … moving? Why not promote a chili contest in your store where the chili must be made with game meat? Offer up chili kits and recipes customers can use to make it as easy as possible for people to enter. Promote it and give participants an opportunity for bragging rights not just when they win but simply for taking part. This can extend beyond your current customer base and engage the local community at large. Once people get a taste of these great (and healthier) foods, they might just explore how they can get more for themselves. This is a great way to tell the full story of what it can mean to participate in archery.
Here’s another example of telling the bigger story: Engage your store, purposefully, with organizations such as NASP, S3DA, ASA and other national and local leagues. They’re obviously a great fit for our shops, but all too often we don’t go beyond carrying the equipment for the sport. Keep a scoreboard in the store and on your website highlighting the local teams and how they are doing, feature individual achievements and even hold events to highlight local success stories. At the end of the season, sponsor a local awards event to recognize those students who have achieved their goals — and make your shop the epicenter of your local archery community. The key here is to tell the story that you are not just here to sell the wares but to actively promote the activity.
As Simon Sinek, retail guru and motivational speaker, says, “People don’t buy what we sell, they buy WHY we sell it.” The key aspect here is to go beyond the products your store sells and instead show customers or potential customers the dividends that archery can bring through real-world stories. Make participation as easy as possible through rentals and train your staff to mentor your customers and be that “trusted friend” on their journey. Develop programs and events that give the customer purpose beyond the products and tell these stories loudly and proudly that archery is much more than just bows and arrows. The more you can turn a customer’s hobby into a lifestyle, the more you will grow a lucrative and long-term customer base.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP THE INDUSTRY, TO HELP INDIVIDUAL BUSINESSES GET THE MOST OUT OF THE INDUSTRY, AND TO HELP YOU.