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Space - the final frontier and the primary concern.

With this issue, SI begins a new monthly column devoted to effective strategies for running a profitable archery aisle. Each month, SI will talk to an archery/stocking firearms dealer, who will share his or her knowledge on proven methods for success in this booming area of the shooting sports.

Whether you already stock a full archery line and want some tips on how to maximize space and increase profits, or if you need to know the best marketing strategies, these experts will tell you what did -- and didn't -- work for them.

The bottom line as to why you should consider adding archery products to your ever-growing line of firearms and shooting wares is profits. An archery aisle can boost your profit margin by a few hundred percent -- if the marketing is right. Bowhunting and archery-related sports such as 3-D shooting have taken a dramatic jump in recent years, with constant innovations, and innovation always brings in customers. The best bow on your shelf today may be obsolete tomorrow as manufacturers develop better products.

The first resource needed in adding a new line of goods is space, often a rare commodity in a retail gun store. No smart retailer just happens to have an empty wall or aisle waiting to be filled when the right idea comes along. Just ask Bill Lowe, owner of Bill's Sporting Goods in Claremore, Okla.

Archery has been incorporated in Lowe's store for nearly half the 15 years he has been in business. When Lowe decided to add the line, it required some remodeling to his store (a former restaurant). Lowe poured concrete, laid carpet (for aesthetics), and installed pegboard and new shelves around the store. "This really boosted sales," he says. In fact, adding an archery line increased Lowe's sales to the tune of 50 percent. In 1992, Lowe's archery-related sales approached $300,000 and he says he anticipates even greater returns this year.

If that figure impresses you, consider this: 10 percent of Lowe's sales come from archery gear and every archery customer who walks through the door is also a proven firearms buyer. For the gun consumer, Lowe reports that approximately 50 percent of his loyal gun customers have also come to him to purchase archery products. Lowe says many of the gun customers turn to bowhunting to extend their hunting season from one week for guns to three months for bows.

In December alone Lowe sold 60 bows, even though bowhunting season had already ended. One possible reason for the increase in purchases was a 10 percent discount offered on all bows that month, although Lowe said those who purchased bows did not know of the sale until they came into the store.

Full-Line Archery

Lowe's 2,000 foot archery section -- nearly one third of his 7,000 foot store -- includes an archery aisle with more than 200 bow styles and a full accessories line. (Another 2,000 feet is firearms, ammo and reloading equipment; the remainder is blackpowder and fishing equipment.) In addition, Lowe has installed several archery shooting lanes in an area outside the back of his store. Here he helps educate customers and allows them to shoot the bows.

"These shooting lanes are a crucial element in selling bows and accessories," Lowe said, "because a customer needs to understand how a bow will react." For instance, a hunter should know how loud a bow is, depending on the game he intends to shoot. "A store that offers indoor test firing lanes will have even better sales because it is quieter and the shooter can hear the bow better," says Lowe.

Another important reason for the test lanes is to get the customer excited about the sport. "In the archery industry, it's all in the fitting. If you spend 20 or 30 minutes with a novice and set up his bow to him, you'll have a customer for life," Lowe said. "A bow is more accurate than a gun up to 20 yards," which boosts the confidence of any potential archery customer.

Stores interested in renting out lanes for practice sessions -- ideal for maximizing profits -- should install no fewer than six to eight lanes, he says, although one would require a large store to allow for this type of activity.

While not everyone considering adding an archery aisle can afford to devote the space that Lowe has, he recommends the least amount of space a dealer allow is a 4-foot by 60-foot aisle, although he says he has seen a few stores manage with a little less. Lowe says he wishes he had even more than his 2,000 feet, as he wants to increase the quantity of bows he carries to 300.

Selling The Extras

In addition to a wide selection of bows, there should be a variety of accessories, says Lowe. "You need at least 12 different peep sights, and there are 20 or 25 regular sights that you should stock."

As for quivers, there are mainly two types -- one for hunting, and one for both hunting and target shooting. Both are necessary to carry, and Lowe says he stocks about 30 different styles.

Lowe says his life-long ordering strategy has changed this year. "I used to go to trade shows and order big and deep on items I knew I could sell lots of to get the best prices," he said. "I would take the place of a distributor." This year, however, Lowe said he is going light on his initial orders and letting the company representatives worry about stocking the merchandise in order to free up his cash flow.

Lowe has earned a place as a "Best Volume Dealer" by regularly buying in bulk from several of his distributors, allowing him to get the best prices on his merchandise.

Most archery dealers will find the best deals early in the year at the SHOT Show and Archery Shows, Lowe said, and dealers should certainly take advantage of promotional sales. But be fairly certain you will be able to move the merchandise before jumping on a deal, he said, reflecting on the old retail buying adage : "A bargain is not a bargain if you can't use the item."

More To Come

SI will run more detailed advice on good buying strategies in an upcoming issue, as well as information on marketing plans, maximizing your space, and many other archery-related topics.

If you are considering adding an archery line and there is a specific problem or question you would like to see addressed in this column, please write to The Archery Aisle at SI and we'll try to have one of our experts answer it in a future issue. By the same token, if you are a stocking archery dealer who has implemented effective strategies for a successful archery line, or if you have a unique way of marketing your archery products, consider sharing it with your colleagues. It will only serve to increase profits for everyone while continuing to stimulate interest in this area of shooting sports.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:The Archery Aisle
Author:Smith, Ann Y.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:Column
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:"What's the first gun I should buy to protect my home?" (answering customer queries)
Next Article:Would you like anything else today? A shelf-load of handgun "extras" no customer should leave your store without.

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