The Crossbow Conversation: Consider the Potential

Crossbows help individuals and the industry, but they’re great for a retailer’s business, too.
Photo Credit: TenPoint Crossbow Technologies

Author: Cassie Gasaway

As a retailer, do you smile, shrug your shoulders or roll your eyes when you hear the word “crossbow”? Whatever your response, crossbows carry a lot of potential for individuals, your business and the entire industry. Don’t stop reading. Hear us out.

Keith Arnold, national sales manager for TenPoint Crossbows and ATA board of directors member, said crossbows are in play, and it’s not healthy for the industry to argue over them.

“Whether it’s a gun, longbow, vertical bow or crossbow, as long as there’s a season, we need to accept it,” Arnold said. “We need to be welcoming of all customers who come in the door, regardless of what they want to shoot. We need to worry less about what people hunt with (because) as long as it’s legal, it’s their choice and prerogative. Let people hunt with what they want and what brings them the greatest satisfaction.”

Acknowledging and accepting crossbow hunters as hunters will help unite the hunting community, which Arnold said is important. “We need to realize that we, as a group of hunters, have strength in numbers, and our collective numbers have been diminishing, which means our collective strength has been diminishing,” he said.

The industry needs crossbows because they introduce new people to bowhunting, they allow people with physical disabilities to experience bowhunting, and they keep elderly hunters and those with limited time to practice in the woods.

Crossbows give individuals with busy schedules an opportunity to hunt. Photo Credit: TenPoint Crossbow Technologies

Bill Beaman, a 69-year-old farmer from southwest Iowa, started hunting with a compound bow 20 years ago but switched to a crossbow in 2019 after having two back operations and a hip replacement. “It’s given me some more years,” Beaman said. “I probably would have let (hunting) go. Now, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. I can keep hunting and I look forward to it.” Beaman said his crossbow also gives him more confidence because it has a scope and his eyesight isn’t what it used to be.

Crossbows are quiet, easy to learn and less intimidating than firearms, which makes them ideal for learn-to-hunt programs and adults without a mentor or social support. For example, the National Deer Association has hosted several Field to Fork programs to provide education, resources and opportunities for individuals interested in learning to hunt for food.

All these crossbow users buy hunting licenses and equipment, and therefore make financial contributions to state wildlife agencies, which use the funds to pay for high-priority conservation initiatives such as habitat restoration, restocking programs, hunter education programs and public-land access and acquisitions.

Photo Credit: TenPoint Crossbow Technologies

Crossbow opponents have worried about them negatively affecting deer populations, but research has proven that’s not happening. The National Deer Association’s Kip Adams wrote the article “The Facts About Crossbows in the Deer Woods” in September 2020. The piece analyzed data from several state wildlife agencies and found of the four states that can measure bow-specific success rates, “crossbows did not cause any changes in total deer harvest or any measurable biological impact on the state’s deer herd.”

Deer management staff in two states, Maryland and Indiana, also said crossbow use had a positive impact on deer populations since it allowed hunters to control deer numbers in areas where gun discharge may be restricted. The article also shared other crossbow stats regarding hunter demographics, shot distances, wounded animals and more.

It’s clear crossbows are good for individuals, the industry and deer populations, but they’re also great for a retailer’s business, as long as the retailer embraces them and sells them with the right mentality and attitude.

Dalton Renn vouches that Kinsey's Outdoors has success selling crossbows. Photo Credit: Kinsey's Outdoors

How Crossbows Serve Retailers

“Crossbows present retailers with a tremendous opportunity to serve more customers, cultivate better customer relationships and get higher sales,” Arnold said. “We see a huge difference between retailers who sell crossbows because they feel like they have to and those who sell crossbows because they want to maximize sales and take care of their customers. The consumer feels that.”

Arnold said retailers who sell crossbows because they feel like they should usually push customers to their competitors because the customer gets a vibe that they’re not important. On the other hand, Arnold said the accounts who embrace the crossbow, love “the unloved customer” and do a good job of inventorying crossbows and stocking multiple options do a tremendous amount of crossbow sales.

Dalton Renn, a buyer for Kinsey’s Outdoors in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, can vouch for those statements. He said the shop has been selling crossbows for a long time. At first, they sold crossbows mostly to physically impaired customers, but now crossbows are legal for all hunters to use in Pennsylvania, and Kinsey’s Outdoors has embraced that opportunity.

Renn said selling crossbows has increased profits and helped them grow their customer base. As of June 2021, the makeup of bow sales at Kinsey’s Outdoors was 70% vertical bows and 30% crossbows, but Renn expects the gap to tighten as the archery season nears.

Crossbows are perfect for individuals for which hunting with a vertical bow is not ideal. Photo Credit: TenPoint Crossbow Technologies

Many retailers say crossbows turn one customer into two because the crossbow introduces many newcomers to the sport. Then, those participants usually transition to using a compound or traditional bow, further generating sales for the retailer. Arnold said many retailers box themselves in when it comes to working with customers.

“It’s not that retailers can’t sell high-end crossbows; it’s that they don’t think they can,” Arnold said.

He put it like this: “If you’re selling high-end vertical bows, you can sell high-end crossbows. Those customers are one and the same. The guy who can’t shoot the $1,400 carbon compound bow he bought from you will probably consider buying the $4,000 crossbow (when the time is right).”

Plus, crossbows create a lot of add-on sales in terms of hunting gear and accessories. To maximize sales, retailers should also listen to their customers and allow them to pick a bow that’s suitable for their lifestyle, abilities and preferences. If a customer doesn’t specify a price range, Arnold recommends showing customers high-end crossbows and working your way down. The customer will guide you to their comfort zone. Additionally, he said to strike when the iron is hot. By that, he means completing the sale and recommending add-on items.

Crossbows give retailers the potential to make more money, sell more equipment and improve customer satisfaction and relationships. Consider the effect they’ll have on your business, customers and community.

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