Catering To This Niche Market
Brings Great Rewards If Done Right.
Archery pro shops have a language all their own. They cater to a well-defined target customer base with specific wants and needs. Meeting those wants and needs takes effort and education, but it’s within the grasp of independent gun dealers and capable of bringing additional traffic and profits.
Bob Viden is one of the owners of Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, N.J. He said having both firearms and bowhunting gear in the store brings in more customers than either one alone.
“My father started this business in the late 1960s,” he said. “We built our current location in 1975.” The Videns included archery and bowhunting in their product mix from the day they opened their shop.
“Over the years, archery people have become gun people as well,” he said. “Especially in the last three or four years, with the movies that have come out such as The Hunger Games, we’ve had a big influx of the 10- to 17-year-old girls coming in for lessons. A few of their parents have crossed over into the gun section.”
In the archery and bowhunting department, Bob’s Little Sport Shop offers a full product line, including bows from Mathews, Bowtech, PSE and Hoyt, and crossbows from Excalibur and TenPoint. “We can do repairs and make strings,” Viden said. “We have targets as well as hunting gear.”
Viden said the bowhunting aspect of archery is very seasonal in his store.
“Hunting sales pick up in midsummer because we have an early season in September,” he said. “That part of the business stays busy right on through until Christmas.”
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Cater To Customers, Enhance Earnings
When Viden stocks hunting supplies and accessories, his emphasis is on catering to his bowhunters.
“Most of my hunting accessories are in the archery line,” he said. “We’re not a rifle state here in New Jersey, although I do sell some hunting rifles for people who go out of state, and we sell a lot of shotguns.” Viden stopped carrying clothing 15 years ago, but in his archery and bowhunting department he stocks all the other things gun hunters could want: game cameras, scents and all sorts of other hunting gear.
Viden said independent gun dealers are the best place for bowhunters to find what they need in his part of the country.
“I don’t know how it is other places, but here in New Jersey it would be very difficult to sustain a pure archery pro shop,” he said. “We saw the handwriting on the wall about the big-box stores years ago. We knew we couldn’t compete on a lot of accessories and on clothing like we did the first 30 years we were in business.”
In archery and bowhunting, Viden said, the big-box stores can’t effectively compete with him.
“The big-box stores really can’t take care of a bowhunter on a pro shop level, the way we can here,” he said. “Yeah, people still buy some of their equipment from the big-box stores, but they need us to fit them and give them lessons. We make a lot of our money in archery and bowhunting that way.”
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Reach A New Demographic
Miles Hall is president of H&H Shooting Sports Complex in Oklahoma City, Okla. H&H has been well known for years on the firearms side of the shooting sports as an award-winning gun shop and shooting range. Until a new demographic of shooters started appearing a few years ago, however, Hall hadn’t ventured into archery.
“We made a decision to add archery around 2008,” he said. “We were weak in hunting and nonexistent in archery, so our decision was to look at both.”
Hall began by talking with customers to see what they thought about adding archery and bowhunting. He also looked at data from the Archery Trade Association (ATA) to verify the bowhunting and archery market in his area was substantial enough to support an archery business there.
Hall started looking at nearby archery retailers to see what they were doing and how they were doing it.
“One name kept coming up over and over, and that was Outdoor Outfitters,” he said. “One of our partners, Leroy, started going over there and learned everything was pointing toward archery becoming a growing market.”
Hall went to the owner of Outdoor Outfitters and asked him if he would be interested in selling the business to H&H.
“Our original thought was this process would take two to three years,” he said. “But it went very fast, and six months later it was over.”
One of the benefits of having an archery range is it fosters a unique
social environment; conversations continue even as “shooting” gets underway.
Hire The Right People
Hall’s biggest interest was in the employees and in what they knew.
“It’s really all about the people,” he said. “One of the biggest mistakes gun dealers make when they go into archery is not expending time and money to hire a really good pro staff that knows what they’re doing. We didn’t want to make that mistake.”
Hall’s customer base loved the expansion into archery.
“My guests were thrilled,” he said. “They helped promote the living fire out of it. When they got word that we had bought Outdoor Outfitters, it went all over the marketplace. Once we got them in here, we found out the gunners crossed over into archery, and some of the archery people bridged over to the gun market once they had the right environment.”
Hall asserted in an archery or bowhunting department, people make all the difference.
“The big-box stores hire clerks,” he said. “A bow is a fitted item, like a well-tailored suit. You really need someone who knows what he’s doing to sell a bow. Anyone can sell ‘stuff;’ I focused on having a good crew who really knows archery and bowhunting.”
One big advantage to having bowhunting items in the store, Hall explained, is the creation of another selling season.
“It’s also a season before the other seasons, at least in most parts of the country,” he said. “However, as soon as bowhunting season starts, that part of the business goes almost dead.”
Here’s where the gun side of things provides an advantage to a store that also stocks bowhunting gear.
“One of the advantages is the gun store is always busy,” Hall said. “The two categories tend to feed off of each other beautifully.”
H&H carries a full range of archery products to complement the gun store
segment of the business, which creates year-round interest from customers.
Bob’s Little Sport Shop offers a full product line to meet bowhunters’
needs. According to owner Bob Viden, the demand for bowhunting products
lasts from midsummer until the year-end festive season.
Benefit Of Measured Preparation
Any gun shop planning to add archery and bowhunting needs to prepare differently than they do for selling firearms.
“It’s a different business model,” he said. “The average gun sale takes around 45 minutes. But the average bow sale is close to 2 hours. Selling a bow is incredibly different from selling a gun — and stores need to be prepared for that.”
Now that he has been involved in archery and bowhunting for several years, Hall is glad he expanded to include these sectors.
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned,” he said, “is any gun dealer who isn’t into bowhunting and archery needs to be. The goal is to grow the shooting sports, and the shooting sports include bowhunting and archery. When we merged archery and bowhunting, we found crossover going in both directions, and that created a win/win situation for us.”
As the bowhunting market continues to grow, it offers a fresh source of revenue to shrewd dealers who will take the time to learn which products sell, and more importantly, how to sell them better than big-box and online stores with a personalized touch.
By Carolee Anita Boyles
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