The Archery Trade Association’s 18-member Board of Directors met in April for its annual spring meeting. Afterward, Board chair Scott Shultz, owner of Robinson Outdoor Products; and Jay McAninch, ATA CEO/president, took a few minutes to reflect on the meeting and discuss what lies ahead for the ATA and the archery/bowhunting industry.
Question: During the past two years, the industry has been expanding its base beyond bowhunting. How can the ATA and its Board of Directors further boost recreational archery?
Shultz: The world has changed for our industry because of the 2012 Olympics, and Hollywood movies and TV shows that feature archery. Meanwhile, the traditional archery shop has been built around camo, stuffed animals, and hunting magazines and DVDs. It’s a place where bowhunters relax, hang out and shoot their bows several months each year. But if we want archery to be a mainstream sport, we have to make archery shops year-round profit centers. That’s tough to do if your entire focus is bowhunting.
McAninch: Hollywood and TV introduced archery to an entirely new audience. We’ve had little previous interaction with this new demographic. They’re a group that’s mostly kids, many of them teenage girls; and parents, many of them ‘soccer moms.’ They have little knowledge of archery and, in many cases, no awareness of bowhunting. In many ways we’re from two different cultures. It’s up to the ATA to help the industry’s retailers bridge that divide and build another customer base to complement the one that built and sustained this industry the past 40-plus years.
Shultz: Whenever possible, our pro shops have to be shops for recreational and target archery, not just bowhunting. That’s why I’m so proud of the retailer training the ATA is providing through its new ‘Retail Archery Academy.’ Randy Phillips (Archery Headquarters, Chandler, Arizona), Rob Kaufhold (Lancaster Archery Supply Inc., Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and Michelle Zeug (ATA director of archery and bowhunting programs) have been doing great work around the country training dealers how to attract and build this new customer base. It makes so much sense to target this new audience because recreational archery has a much larger base than bowhunting-based archery; maybe by 2-1 or 3-1 margins.
McAninch: We want to help retailers transition to a new business model; something that’s far different from the one that fueled this industry’s rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s. A lot of that growth was sparked by bowhunting’s new technology: compound bows and portable tree stands. It’s important to help retailers generate more income from resources and programs many of them already have, with help from their bowhunting clientele: shooting lanes, leagues and lessons. It also means expanding their inventory to include simpler, lower-priced bows like recurves and basic compound bows.
Shultz: Bowhunting will always be a vital part of our industry. It’s who we are as hunters and conservationists, but the business model that satisfies bowhunting’s clientele doesn’t work for our newer customers. To get these people into our retail stores, we need to be visible online. They prefer to browse our websites for information from their computer or iPad, and maybe buy a Groupon, print off a coupon, or register for lessons. That’s service and convenience they expect, based on their kids’ experiences in other recreational programs. And when they show up for lessons and practice, we need to provide environments with fewer dead animals, but more color and family amenities.
McAninch: That’s also why the ATA helped launch the Archery 360 and Release Your Wild programs. We want to give kids a chance to react to all these movies and TV shows, and find pathways into archery and become part of it. We want them to have fun and interact online, and help them find a pro shop and archery programs in their communities. We’re pushing hard to capture their interest because as more archery shops take part in the Retail Archery Academy, we want even more young archers feeding into that pipeline.
Question: What can the ATA Board of Directors do to ensure the industry capitalizes on the media buzz that’s been out there the past two years, and presumably the next two years and beyond with “The Hunger Games” sequels in November 2014 and November 2015 (Mockingjay, parts 1 and 2)?
Shultz: First, I see an evolution or transition taking place in the attitude and membership of the Board and the position of the ATA. Unlike 12 years ago, the ATA is no longer struggling to validate itself, get out of debt, and spend time and money on litigation. The ATA and its Board put together a strategic plan back in 2001 and 2002, and they’ve been carrying out those goals and guidelines ever since. When the Board got together in subsequent years, it focused almost totally on reviewing what was done to carry out the plan. It was kind of like an accountant’s review. The Board is now shifting from that approach to a forward-looking, strategies-driven mentality that explores ideas that further benefit the ATA.
McAninch: The ATA must be able to help sustain programs that fuel archery and archery-industry growth. A big piece of that puzzle is working with USA Archery on the Explore Archery program. Everyone is excited about it. We want to get more retailers involved and help them sustain archery-promotion programs. We don’t necessarily need to keep creating new umbrella programs. We need to proliferate well-run programs we already have, like Explore Archery and NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) around the country. To help fund those efforts, the ATA must maintain its profitability more than ever.
Shultz: We can do that by exploring opportunities to expand the ATA Trade Show if we care to, or expand our presence at consumer shows, or through the NRA and the NSSF. We have to be open to money-making ideas for the ATA so it can do even more to promote archery. The more money the ATA makes, the more promotions it can afford. Whether it’s NASP, USA Archery, Explore Archery, Release Your Wild or other programs, the more successful they are, the more funding they’ll require to promote archery. The ATA Board recognizes we must be proactive if we’re going to take advantage of the many opportunities out there.
Question: How else can the ATA and the archery industry expand promotional efforts?
Shultz: I’m very positive about the ATA and its future. However, I’m always struck by how few people know what the ATA has been doing and continues to do to accomplish those goals. The ATA isn’t beating a big drum to call attention to itself. If more people had the ATA on their radar screen, we’d already have more support. Jay McAninch and his staff stay centered on the ATA’s goals and mission. It’s a little bit of a shame that the industry doesn’t recognize what they’re doing with such a small number of people.
Feature photo: The Clock, Steve Grosbois - Creative Commons