Tips from Successful Shop Owners: What Works for Your Store?

What are retailers doing right? ATA talks with shops across the country.
Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo

Author: Cassie Scott

From securing customers to making the sale, here’s how three veteran pro-shop owners achieved long-term archery-retailing success. Their tips and advice for emerging archery entrepreneurs can help strengthen the archery and bowhunting industry’s retailing foundation.

Our distinguished ATA-member retailers are:

-Ron Pelkey, owner of Pelkey’s Archery in St. Albans, Vermont.

-Bryan Schertz, owner of On Target Archery LLC in Canton, Texas.

– Josh Jones, owner of Spokane Valley Archery in Greenacres, Washington.

1. How long have you been in business, and what’s your secret to long-term success?

Ron Pelkey of Pelkey’s Archery explained, “We’ve owned the business for 42 years as a family. Our secret? Good customer service and maintaining a sufficient profit margin,” located in St. Albans, Vermont. Photo Credit: Pelkey Archery.

Pelkey: I’ve been in the business 26 years. My father started Pelkey’s Archery in 1975 and I joined him in 1991. He’s retired now, but we’ve owned the business 42 years as a family. Our secret? Good customer service and maintaining a sufficient profit margin.

Schertz: We’ve been in business since 2005, and our best-kept secret is service, service, service! If you take care of your customers and overwhelm them with service, you’ll develop long-term customer loyalty.

Jones: My father and I started our business when I was young. We’ve been in business 28 years. Our long-term success has always been customer service. Establish a good relationship with your customers so when they go out in the field and talk to other people, they’ll recommend you. Word-of-mouth (advertising) has always been our success, and I believe it will always be our success, even in this digital age.

2. How do you stay ahead of your competition and industry trends?

How can you stay ahead of your competition? Be honestand upfront with your customers, test gear and give accurate reviews, and you can also choose to be a part of a buyers group like ARRO or NABA. Photo Credit: ATA.

Pelkey: Simple; by attending the ATA Trade Show, and being a member of the Archery Range and Retailers Organization buying group. Attending the ATA Show is a must for us. We meet manufacturers, network, and learn about new products and trends from retailers around the country. ARRO connects our shop to better pricing, and allows us to be more competitive. The group also gives us a wealth of knowledge from other successful retailers.

Schertz: We stay ahead of our competition by being open and honest with customers on the front end. We also test products to get firsthand knowledge and give accurate reviews. That honesty helps build trustworthy relationships that keep customers coming back. We stay ahead of trends in the industry by asking questions. I always ask companies how many marketing dollars they spend on products. If they put money behind their products, those products are easier to sell because people already know about them. I like to align myself with companies that work just as hard as I do to sell products.

Jones: We do a lot of research to get information and be knowledgeable on equipment and gear. We try to test gear and make sure we’re comfortable with the product before we recommend it. It’s also important to pay close attention to what’s happening in the industry because change occurs frequently. Having good relationships with manufacturers keeps us up to date with what’s new and coming.

3. On a scale of 1-10, how important is your shop’s product variety, and why?

Bryan Schertz, owner of On Target Archery LLC commentedon a rating scale. For having products in stock he states it’s a solid 10, “Today’s society is a microwave society; we want things now. If you have materials in stock, you are better off than your competitor who must order it.” Photo Credit:

Pelkey: 9.5. Every shop has its personal-favorite products, whether they’re regional or influenced by representatives. But I believe variety is important, especially with today’s consumer. If you don’t have it, they can have it at their door tomorrow, thanks to the internet.

Schertz: It’s not so much about having a variety of products, but more about having products in stock. That’s a 10 for me; to have a decent selection of well-marketed products. Today’s society is a microwave society. We want things now. If you have materials in stock, you’re better off than your competitor who must order it.

Jones: Having a large variety of products in your shop is important. I’d give it an 8 or 9 because if someone calls asking for a product and you don’t have it, they’ll likely go somewhere else to find it, rather than wait for you to order it. If you have what they’re asking for, you can get them into your store. They may not buy what they’re asking for, but if you get them in the door you can at least have a conversation, and educate and teach them about products they’re interested in.

4. How do you draw customers to your shop?

Drawing customers from online can be one thing. Hands down across all three of our interviewees is the fact that they take suchgreat care of their customers that their shop gets spread through word of mouth the most. That’s really great! Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo.

Pelkey: We’re fortunate to be a second-generation shop and have a great following of customers. Our primary draw comes from word of mouth. We give out shop T-shirts for new bow sales, but also for new customers, large purchases or longtime, loyal customers. Our shirts are everywhere. I’d rather give a shirt away than hope a radio ad works.

Schertz: Word-of-mouth is huge. Facebook and social media are also big. We really try to mix it up, keep ideas fresh and try new things. It’s important to diversify your tactics and show people how fun archery can be. One thing that worked well for us is advertising on a weather app. Hunters and anglers are always outside, and want to know what the weather is doing. They check the weather and see our ad. That draws a lot of attention. It’s selective and yet reaches a wide demographic.

Jones: It’s always been word-of-mouth. We’ve tried different advertising formats, but none compare to word-of-mouth. If you do a good job taking care of people, that gets people in your store. If you fail to do that, they won’t come back and they won’t recommend you, either. We do pay attention to – and try to be active with – social media. But for us it has been our long-term success of having a good reputation.

5. What’s your best sales tactic for closing deals with customers?

Josh Jones, owner of Spokane Valley Archery states,“If you can provide more service and knowledge than he or she has seen or heard, that is going to go a long way when closing. However, at the end of it, you need to ask for the sale. Asking for the sale is a large portion of beingable to close effectively.”  Photo Credit: Spokane Valley Archery.

Pelkey: We don’t charge customers to try our products, so we encourage them to shoot bows and sling arrows. Once customers get the product in their hands, they’re usually convinced of the performance. They get the “wow factor,” and we make the sale.

Schertz: We encourage our customers to try more than one product, and we ask questions about what they like best. When they zero in on say, a specific bow, we ask them what they like about that bow. This gives them confidence in their choice and makes them reaffirm the product’s highlights. They usually end up talking themselves into buying. Focus on the positives. Just read Tom Hopkins’ book, “How to Master the Art of Selling.”

Jones: Having a lot of knowledge about your products, and being able to give that knowledge to the customer is important. If you’re trying to close, the customer is trying to decide. If you can provide more service and knowledge than they have seen or heard, that goes a long way when closing. However, at the end of it, you need to ask for the sale. Asking for the sale is a large portion of being able to close effectively.

6. What advice can you offer new retailers to help them stay in business?

There are many tips for new retailers to follow to stay in business for the long haul. Some of the best advice can be keeping young kids involved in the sport. If the kids are entertained and really enjoy themselves, they will continue to enjoy it well into the rest of their life. Photo Credit: ATA.

Pelkey: I have three tips. One, have great customer service and a well-rounded knowledge base. Two, be profitable. Don’t try to be the cheapest place in town. High-quality service and knowledge are always better. Three, it’s all about the kids. Consider hosting youth programs, birthday parties, summer camps and after-school programs. They all increase foot-traffic, boost sales, and bring community awareness and promotion to archery.

Schertz: Don’t plan on taking money out of your business the first four years. Any money you make during that period should be put back into your business. Do everything you can and use your money to establish a good business platform for the future. It takes time to build relationships and establish a customer base, so be patient. And remember: Running an archery business is just that, a business, not a hobby.

Jones: Secure good-quality archery lines, and maintain positive relationships with those dealers and manufacturers. The biggest thing that brings people into your store is having the product they’re looking for. Those products must be available to them through dealers and manufacturers. Be sure there are sales representatives in your area and work with them, not against them.

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