Author: Jackie Holbrook
Archery is one of the country’s fastest growing sports. In fact, a 2016 nationwide survey by Responsive Management, on behalf of the ATA, found recreational archers were fueling much of the increase. The survey found 76% of archers shoot recreationally, while 35% are bowhunters who shoot only to prepare for hunting. Competitive archers make up 20% of the participants. (Some archers participate in multiple ways, so those percentages don’t total 100%.)
Recreational and competitive archers are untapped markets for many archery shops. “If a shop just focuses on bowhunting, they’re missing out,” said Rob Schaffhauser, owner of West Town Archery in Brookfield, Wisconsin. “Our shop makes a nonstop effort to try to hit all the different categories of shooters without alienating anyone.”
West Town Archery’s service starts at the door. “We want everybody who comes into the shop to feel comfortable, especially beginners,” Schaffhauser said. He thinks many bowhunting-focused shops unintentionally intimidate newcomers, especially if they don’t know what to ask.
“Ours is a simple way of doing new business,” Schaffhauser said. “We treat each customer with respect, and answer whatever questions they have to encourage them to start flinging some arrows.”
Don't discourage recreational archers by overwhelming them. Work with their goals. Photo Credit: West Town Archery Facebook
The shop creates many recreational archers. “We do as many youth shooting programs as we can,” Schaffhauser said. “We do competitive youth (target) leagues, and we also do lessons. We focus on getting new archers at every turn.”
Archery lessons are also a big part of business at First Flight Archery in Raleigh, North Carolina. “We host and teach lots of archery classes,” said owner John Winker. The shop hosts a one-time, one-hour Intro to Archery Class and a six-week Archery 101 class. Winker said the shop also offers private coaching and a JOAD program, which meets several times weekly. “People take a class and say: ‘That’s really fun. I don’t want to hunt, but I want to do archery in some other way.’ We direct them toward competitive and recreational shooting.”
Those shooters help ease the summer slump. “By no means does target archery pay the bills around here, but it helps during midsummer when nobody is interested in hunting,” Winker said. The shop’s recreational archers also provide a great marketing tool. “People take these introductory classes and then tag a picture on social media. That’s how I get my competitive business in.”
Introductory classes create shooters who keep coming back. Winker said it’s a big mistake to not make maximum use of their range. It’s more than a tool for sighting in hunting bows. “Using my range as a tool is the last thing I do,” he said. “My range pays for all my brick-and-mortar expenses. JOAD income pays my lease and my electric bills.”
Most shooters at West Town Archery’s range also just shoot for fun. “We try to get more hunters in, but it seems most of them like to shoot on their own,” Schaffhauser said. “Our 20-yard range works great for recreational shooting.”
If you’re thinking about offering lessons and classes, Winker and Schaffhauser encourage using certified instructors. Winker and his wife are Level 3 instructors, and one of their employees is a Level 2 instructor. “Certification lends credibility because it shows parents that it’s not just some random person teaching archery,” Winker said. “They have safety training and experience.”
JOAD is a great way to get young archers interested in the sport. Photo Credit: First Flight Archery
First Flight Archery is serious about developing competitive archers. The shop’s team, the Raleigh Revolution, placed six archers in the top five at the JOAD archery national championship this year. Christopher Clade won first place in the barebow cadet men, Julian Horner took second in the barebow club men, and Mary Caffo took third in the barebow cadet women.
“Most shops that aren’t somewhat involved in competitive archery won’t survive,” Winker said. If a shop’s owners and employees aren’t familiar with competitive archery, it’s important to learn. Everyone at Winker’s shop shoots competitively, and he’s on the USA shooting team. “They shouldn’t just attend an event,” Winker said. “Participate. Go out and shoot when arrows matter, and it’s not for hunting. You’ll learn a lot.”
Changes for Your Shop
If you need help expanding your shop’s focus, the ATA can help. As part of the ATA’s consumer marketing campaign, the ATA produced the video “Welcoming New Archers.” Its tips explain how to turn prospective archers into lifelong enthusiasts.
To learn more about maximizing profits on your archery range, check out ATA’s “Archery Range Guides.” The guides help build and expand ranges in retail settings. The guides also explain range benefits, and help you create a business plan that includes archery programming that sells equipment, boosts supplemental income, and increases in-store traffic.
The ATA is also accepting applications for its new Archery Range and Program Grants. The grants are part of the ATA’s Archery Range Toolkit. View the ATA’s Archery Range and Program Grant Criteria for more information.
The Explore Archery curriculum has all the information you need to host an intro course. It’s available to all ATA-member retailers who have earned their USA Archery Level 1 instructor certification. Contact USA Archery to obtain the curriculum. For more information on lessons, read “How to Teach a Successful Archery Class.”
ATA’s Resources Website is also a great place to find information for creating class curriculums and improving profitability by serving recreational archers. Browse hundreds of free resources that include information on creating schedules and hiring instructors.
If you have questions, contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s range and retail programs manager, at (502) 640-0944 or firstname.lastname@example.org.