Archery retailers are always looking for unique ways to engage and involve new customers. Some shops are taking a page from the playbook that bowling alleys and skating rinks have used for years by offering birthday parties.
Nicole Nash, program specialist for the Archery Trade Association (ATA), thinks all retailers should try birthday parties.
“It’s all about trial and error,” she said. “Retailers will find out what works for them. Reaching out to new user groups is always in the retailer’s best interests. Not only does it bring prospective archers into their shop, it also is an opportunity to make additional revenue.”
At the Archery Shoppe in Albuquerque, New Mexico, instructor Annette Gonzales manages birthday parties.
“When someone calls about a birthday party, I go through all the specifics about how much it is, how long it lasts, and what the customer can expect,” she said. Parties are $149.99 for eight children, with each additional child costing another $8. That includes bows, arrows, range time and instruction, for a total time of 90 minutes per party. Groups can bring food or drink, and the store provides tables, chairs and a refrigerator for them to use.
“Customers can bring any food they want,” Gonzales said. “That includes pizza, subs or anything else. They can bring decorations and tablecloths.”
Gonzales closes the smaller part of her range for parties, and moves the targets to a 10-yard distance.
“We do five to 10 minutes on safety,” she said. “Then they shoot at targets. Next I put up balloons for them to shoot.” After about 40 minutes, the group takes a break for food and gifts.
“Then for the last 20 minutes, they can shoot at the 3-D dinosaurs,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales said parties don’t have to be on weekends.
“I’ll do a party any day,” she said.
At Droptine Archery in Advance, North Carolina, owner Robert Brookman said when he opened his shop in 2010 one of his goals was catering to youths and women.
“I felt that to make my shop succeed, I needed to do something other shops weren’t doing,” he said. “Birthday parties came about because I saw kids going to Chuck E Cheese and places like that for parties. I asked myself why people couldn’t do archery birthday parties.”
He got some good quality beginner bows bows and , and started making reservations for parties in his store.
“The whole thing just took off,” he said. “We try to just do parties on Saturdays. We probably do three a month now. Even in late summer and fall when we’re just covered up with other things, we still do birthday parties.”
Partly as a result of opening the store for birthday parties, Brookman is starting to host some corporate events as well.
Brookman makes sure that kids who come to birthday parties have a good time. He even uses archery-themed paper plates and cups.
“We do cups and plates with bull’s eyes on them,” he said. “They get to shoot targets and shoot balloons. We put dollar bills and $10 gift certificates in balloons. We do the setup and the cleanup; the only thing we don’t do is the cake and ice cream. Everything we do is for the future. This is all about the kids. If I can keep them involved in archery, those are future customers for me.”
A nearby bakery will make cakes and cupcakes with archery decorations.
“Most people do cupcakes with targets on them,” Brookman said. “The bakery puts a candy stick in each cupcake so it looks like an arrow.”
Brookman requires each participant to sign a release and conducts a lesson about safety before he lets kids shoot.
Brookman said retailers must do two things to make birthday parties a success.
“You have to be personable,” he said. “If you can’t talk to a stranger, you can’t do a birthday party. You also have to be patient, because most of the kids who come in here have never shot a bow.”
Doing this kind of party has increased Brookman’s sales.
“After the party, kids talk about, ‘I want a bow, I want a bow,’” he said. “I can’t tell you how many sales we’ve gotten because of birthday parties.”
At Archery Headquarters Academy in Chandler, Arizona, program manager Brett Litzler treats birthday parties like mini-introductory archery classes.
“They get 15 minutes on safety and procedures,” he said. “Then we put the bows in their hands and they get a couple of arrows to sight in. Then I get out zombies and balloons to show them that archery is fun. I want them to have fun the whole time.”
Archery Headquarters Academy offers two party “packages.”
“We have the Hunger Games package, where we divide kids into groups of two to four,” Litzler said. “Each group is a colony, and they shoot against each other. “We also have a Zombie Apocalypse package, where I divide them into two teams. One person from each team shoots at a time, and they aim for the head, because you have to hit a zombie in the head to kill it.”
Litzler said the hardest thing about birthday parties is having people show up on time.
“A lot of times kids show up when you’re in the middle of the rules,” he said. He recently posted a reminder about punctuality on the store’s website.
To ensure birthday parties succeed, Nash offers several suggestions:
- Make sure you provide all information about what is and isn’t included on your website, fliers, e-mails, etc.
- State clearly whether groups are allowed to bring food and beverages.
- State clearly whether groups can decorate for parties.
- State pricing clearly.
- Provide a list of recommended bakeries, pizza restaurants, etc., so parents know where they can pick up food and supplies.
- If you have a template for invitations, make it easily available on your website.
The more information retailers make available through fliers, websites and other sources, the less time they’ll spend on the telephone answering the same questions repeatedly. That means more time to devote to planning and holding events of all kinds, and more money in the retailer’s pocket.
“Doing birthday parties is a no-brainer,” Brookman said. “When you do that, you’re building your business.”
For archery party ideas you can share on your shop's website and Facebook page, check out Archery's 360's 11 Awesome Archery Party Ideas: As If You Need a Reason and Let Them Eat Archery Cake!