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Are you ready for archery?

Where is the "Dead Zone?" No, it's not in the Stephen King section of your local bookstore, it's that 4-foot space you have in the back of your shop where nothing sells. There, customers find such attractive items as a bright pink alligator-skin pistol case, an old box of six gauge shotgun ammo, and a 40x scope for a .22 rifle which also has an FM radio. Perhaps its time to clear out the Dead Zone and utilize it for something which will increase your income like archery.

Business owners are always looking for ways to expand their customer base and profits, and gun shop owners are no exception. Many have found an effective way of doing this by adding a line of archery equipment to their current inventory. "Since most gun hunters are going to consider bowhunting at some point, the gun dealer has the best possible audience when it comes to selling archery equipment," said Greg Kazmierski, president and owner of Waukesha, Wis.-based Buck Rub Archery, an archery goods wholesaler/retailer.

Since bowhunting accounts for 85 percent to 90 percent of the archery market (with the other 10 percent to 15 percent of sales resulting from target archery equipment sales) Kazmierski recommends that gun shop owners market bowhunting equipment over target archery equipment. "With bowhunting, you're talking about a season which starts a few months earlier than the gun hunting seasons, so gun dealers will broaden their busy time by including archery equipment."

According to Kazmierski, the archery industry is growing at a fast pace. The flip side, however, is that the industry is also becoming more competitive.

"The dealers that are successful are very knowledgeable. If a gun shop is going to sell archery equipment, they will be competing head to head with chain stores, discount stores, and mail order," he said. "The best protection is having the knowledge. People are willing to pay a little higher price for a retailer with archery expertise. Learn service, and how to set equipment up. If you don't have a lot of knowledge about archery, spend some time reading so you'll know what you're talking about. You'll be way ahead of the competition."

Another reason that knowledge is so critical in this business is that retailers make the most money when the customer makes his or her initial purchase. Outfitting the beginner who is serious about bowhunting will include the sale of a hunter's bow, sight, quiver, arrows, a tree stand, a case, camouflage fatigues and other miscellaneous items. "He may come back to you to upgrade his equipment, or purchase more arrows, but they will be smaller purchases," Kazmierski said.

Target Your Customers

There are many ways of advertising products, but not all of them are effective. However, Kazmierski has found a unique and innovative method that he relies on: He visits the local county courthouse and obtains a listing of archery-licensed hunters. "I've found the best method of advertising is through a direct mailing to the archery-licensed hunters in my area," he said. "A lot of dealers don't want to go to the trouble, but you're spending every dime talking to the people you need to be talking to."

However, every state has its own policies regarding the release of this information. Contact The Department of Fish and Game and/or the county courthouse in your area to see what their policies are.

So how does one who is new to the archery business combat the chain and discount stores? "It's important to let the customer try out the equipment," Kazmierski said. "You need to have a small area set up so the customer can shoot the bow they are interested in. It really doesn't take much space."

Also important for the gun shop owner interested in marketing archery equipment is to be set up by an archery-only distributor. "An archery-only distributor is aware of what product is or isn't moving and he can answer technical questions," Kazmierski said. "If you get a distributor who sells backpacking, fishing, and other sporting goods, you may not get the expertise of the archery-only distributor."

He also recommends that gun dealers be conservative in placing their first order. According to Kazmierski, one of the most common mistakes for first-time archery dealers is to place an initial order which is too large. Then the gun dealer is left with a large amount of merchandise which the customers don't want or can't afford, and the dealer has the impression that there is no money to be made in archery sales.

"I believe the key to archery sales is having knowledgeable people," Kazmierski said. In order to find a qualified archery pro he recommends placing an employment notice at a local archery club. That way, once hired, gun shop owners will know which products are moving quickly in their area. "The market seems to be leaning toward the high-tech equipment - that's what's moving fastest right now."

Marketing To The Hunter

Another archery expert who has similar views is Al Rinehart, national archery sales manager for Evansville, Ind.-based Indian Industries. In business since 1920, Indian Industries is a manufacturing facility which produces archery equipment. "Pro shops usually sell recreational equipment, but bowhunting is what drives the archery business," Rinehart said. "We cater to the mass merchants who sell youth-oriented recreational sets, hunting bows, and accessories."

Like Kazmierski, Rinehart stresses the importance of dealing with a knowledgeable archery representative. "You have to depend on a good rep. (The gun shop owner) may be a gun expert but he may not know much about archery," he said. "As with any business, you have to turn those items off the shelves. A good rep will help you by letting you know what will turn during the year." According to Rinehart, the peak time for bowhunting sales is from mid-July to mid-October.

Customer service seems to be the number one selling point in capturing the archery audience. "No matter what business you're in, what you are selling is your expertise. If you're expert in your product, the customer will have confidence in you and return to you whenever they need anything," he said.

Rinehart also acknowledges the need for an area to try out the equipment. "You don't need much space - just about five yards. You have to remember that arrows are not bullets - a target will stop them."

With the sport of bowhunting on the rise and growing at the rate of approximately 10 percent a year, Rinehart believes that it is important for archery retailers to have a full display of bows and accessories. "There are probably 25 accessories that the hunter needs to buy, like deer scents and lures. The potential with the accessories is tremendous. It's not as intimidating as it sounds," he said. According to Rinehart, archery is one of the most lucrative segments of the hunting industry, provided the dealer considers his merchandise carefully. "It may take you six months to get comfortable with, but you need to learn these things yourself or hire someone who does. I would suggest that the gun shop owner hire someone, even if it is only part-time, who is an archery expert. When they're stocking the shelves for the first time, it's important an expert show them what they need to make money."
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Saenz, Lisa
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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