Archery industry insiders anticipate that growing interest in the sport among girls and women will continue with the releases of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” which features the role of a female archer written exclusively for the movie.
These upward trends – which were launched by recent movies, TV shows and the 2012 Olympics – have generated much media hype that’s spurring real archery interest. Even so, archery shops must know how to market and sell to an emerging demographic without alienating their traditional clientele of men and bowhunters.
Here are three tips to broaden your customer base and cash in on the archery buzz:
1. Know Your Audience
USA Archery reports 45 percent of its Facebook followers are women, and participation in archery classes has also increased. Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) clubs, where youths can try archery, grew 79 percent from 2008 to 2012.
Randy Phillips, owner of Archery Headquarters in Chandler, Ariz., said he saw more women and kids in his shop after the 2012 Olympic Games. The shop was already full of bowhunters ready to buy equipment for autumn’s bowhunting season.
“For 25 years, my customers have been primarily men,” Phillips said. “Suddenly, a lot of moms were there with their kids, asking a lot of questions. We didn’t know what to do at first. We didn’t want to be so busy answering questions that we risked losing a $2,000 sale to a bowhunter.”
Archery Headquarters began offering introductory archery classes, which filled quickly. Soon after, Phillips created the Archery Academy, a separate area in his building that’s bright, colorful and free from taxidermy. The new area resembles other indoor sports facilities, and appeals to this new mainstream archery audience, especially women and kids.
2. Recognize Potential
Kent and Deb Colgrove, owners of Full Draw Archery in Omaha, Neb., estimate that a typical youth equipment sale is $500. Though lower than sales to most bowhunters, youth sales show promise for an aging industry, Kent Colgrove said.
“Bowhunters are getting older and shops can’t rely solely on hunting customers anymore,” Colgrove said. “It’s encouraging to see more recreational archers come through our doors because this younger demographic can sustain archery interest and businesses.”
Shops near archery parks might have more experience serving new archers, said Ricky Davis, archery shop manager at Van’s Sporting Goods, which reported an 83 percent increase in archery sales in mid-2010, one year after an archery park opened in Cullman, Ala.
“We get about a 50-50 split of kids and adults, but there have been a lot more kids and women showing an interest in archery since the park opened,” Davis said. “The best things archery shop owners can do are teach classes, attend every archery event in their area, and make sure every archery instructor knows who you are.”
3. Simplify Process
“When I wanted to reach women and kids, I mimicked successful mainstream businesses,” Phillips said. “You can register online for karate, gymnastics and soccer. Why not archery? Ninety percent of my class participants show up without calling or coming to the store first because information, registration and class schedules are easy to access online.”
He estimates his business will clear $70,000 this year in archery classes alone, and says archers at his Archery Academy range have increased from 35 to 200 each week since March. Phillips credits his Archery Academy website – maintained as a venture separate from Archery Headquarters – for simplifying the process of taking archery classes and increasing traffic to his business.
He also sold 500 vouchers for 1,600 shooters through Groupon in just two days. Reports show his shop retains 18 percent of all archers who attend an introductory archery class. Phillips thinks he achieves strong retention by emphasizing archery’s attributes – safety, teamwork and social skills – in his marketing efforts.
The Colgroves also advertise archery classes online and said their classes fill quickly. The couple has worked for 18 years to keep the store and the sport open to everyone.
“Many women think they won’t be accepted in a hunting-oriented setting,” Kent said. “Deb helps new archers feel at ease, and many men trust her advice more than anyone else’s. This isn’t a good old boys club; it’s a place for families. We display tasteful taxidermy, present an attractive retail space, and don’t allow smoking or tobacco.”
For more success stories about the archery industry, be sure to subscribe to the ATA Newsletter by visiting http://www.archerytrade.org/news/newsletter. If you’re an ATA member and your archery shop has a successful business practice you’d like to share, email Amy Hatfield at email@example.com.