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The archery aisle.

One of the primary reasons gun dealers stock archery products is to stretch out the hunting season. While gun hunting season typically lasts approximately a week, archery season varies state to state, lasting anywhere from three weeks to three months. Many hunters experiment with bows for a challenge or to keep them outdoors a few weeks longer, and wind up archery enthusiasts. That means dealers have to sell like crazy during those few short weeks to get the highest profit margin possible. Or do they?

Just because bowhunting season ends abruptly does not mean your archery sales have to. Like other items in your store, successfully promoting the archery products requires year-round effort. Sure, there are times when you won't emphasize archery as much as you will other seasonal items, but you can maximize your off-season profits nonetheless. Once you've decided to stock archery, it is a total commitment that deserves your full attention.

Stuart Sportsmen's Centre in Indian Orchard, Mass., has stocked archery products for practically all of its 48 years of business. Its customers have learned to regularly count on -- and receive -- quality products and service. It's not that Stuart's does any one thing right; it's a combination of many things that has made them successful.

Sharon Person, president of the company that was founded by her grandfather almost half a century ago, has a recipe for success that combines good buying strategies, a knowledgeable sales staff, and effective in-store marketing. Stuart's carries firearms, camping, hunting and fishing gear, ski equipment and archery products, and has continued to thrive under Person's direction. In 1992 the store recorded a banner sales year.

During the fall, about 80 percent of Person's sales are archery-related.

Change of Scenery

In addition to an elaborate archery window display, which is designed by Stuart's five-member staff, Person advertises weekly in the local newspaper and the local cable television station. She maintains a mailing list and sends out news of promotions to preferred customers -- all of them.

Dealers can also work with distributors on getting co-op dollars to augment their own advertising budgets, where the distributor contributes a certain amount of ad dollars for everything purchased from that company.

One of the things Person does twice a year as part of her marketing strategy is physically change the layout of the store. This not only gives the store a new look, but it puts immediate attention on the sporting season at hand.

During the off-season, archery products are placed opposite the entrance, still visible as customers enter the store. Where many stores may let the items sit on the shelf until the following season, Stuart's sells archery-related items year round.

"Crossover sales are the key," says Person. For example, many of the accessory items that are intended for bowhunting season can also be used in other sports. During the off-season, Stuart's devotes a 40-foot wall to clothing, hats, bags, fanny packs, and other accessories, which draw remarkable sales. "You can tie these items in to turkey hunting season," says Person. It is a good idea not only to know when the various hunting dates are for your state, but to look ahead and see which seasons overlap, and what product sales you can tie together, she says.

New Hampshire, for instance, has a three-month turkey season from September to December, a three-week firearms season, and a three-week archery season during the first three weeks of November. There is a lot of potential here crossover sales here, says Person. For example, the same cotton clothing and boots can be worn for all these sports.

Buying Group

What goes on behind the scenes is as important to maximizing your profits as the dollars that are spent in your store.

Person belongs to buyers group called the Archery Range Retailers Organization (ARRO), which enables her to purchase items at the bulk rate without buying the quantity normally required for a price break. This is one way of competing with the many discount marts that are permeating the market. Person recommends all qualifying archery dealers join this group. Stipulations are that you be a stocking archery retailer with good credit, and that there are no other ARRO members within a 75-mile radius of your store. (For more information, call 1-800-234-7499.)

ARRO members meet annually at the Bow Hunting Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., to place orders through the various distributors as well as share ideas. Members qualify for special promotions offered by manufacturers, enabling them to provide package deals on some archery equipment.

For instance, because of companies that have contracted with the buyers group, Stuart's is able to sell a bow, quiver and sight package for around $150. One distributor supplies bows inexpensively to Stuart's, letting her sell a low-end bow for just over $100. That's a minimal investment for a customer who's still experimenting with the sport. Later, after he or she decides to pursue archery further, you can upgrade him or her up to a better bow and accessory line.

And don't be surprised, says Person, if your archery customer, who was once only a regular gun customer, soon also wants to delve into the blackpowder arena for an even greater challenge.

Customer Service

If you run a store that is not geared toward customer service, don't bother adding an archery line. Send that customer right down to the local discount mart so he does not bother you, because archery is not a "help-yourself" sport.

Person is dedicated to giving as much time as needed to make a customer comfortable with his or her purchase. It would be nearly impossible for a first-time archer to select a bow and arrow package that was right for him without your help. "You have to provide this service. It's what keeps the independents in business," she says.

Buying archery equipment is a very involved sale, says Person. "You have to size and custom fit an arrow to a customer. It's a very personal interaction where you establish a relationship with the customer."

Stuart's employs an archery mechanic who custom cuts arrows and works on bows to adjust the weight and draw length.

If you don't know enough about archery to sell it yourself, hire a knowledgeable staff member -- and get educated yourself. Knowledge is the greatest marketing tool you'll ever have. If a customer trusts you and has confidence in what you're selling him, he'll continue to buy from you, as well as refer you to his friends.

Get Involved

Person has taken the initiative to become involved with local clubs that have in turn helped her archery sales. She is vice president of the Hampden County Sporting Council and belongs to the local women's rod and gun club. Because of her visibility in her community, she is often called upon to act as a media spokesperson for firearms, archery and other related issues.

All this has established credibility for Stuart's, which undoubtedly has translated in sales.

Bill Lowe, president of Lowe's Sporting Goods just outside of Tulsa, Okla., (featured in last month's Archery Aisle) occasionally holds seminars on specific topics. He advises you pay close attention to the weather pattern in your region to ensure attendance, recalling an event that turned disastrous. A seminar with a well-known game caller had been scheduled and about 300 people were expected. However, an unexpected snowstorm deterred more than two-thirds of those customers. Had the weather cooperated, the seminar would have been a great success, says Lowe. Summer is not a good time to plan such events because many people are on vacation, and the ones who aren't vacationing are not thinking about hunting at that point.

Nonetheless, he was making an effort to support his customers in their respective sports, and they will remember that effort the next time they need products.

Both Person and Lowe are friendly with their competition and help them out as needed. For example, Person refers her customers to another store if she does not stock a particular item.

Lowe goes to an even further extreme. He will spend several days teaching another archery dealer how to tune a bow. "There is always something to learn," he says. "After two days they can go offer the same service to their customers, and I've had free help for two days."

The real lesson here, he says, is that the dealers must work together in order to keep the sport alive and handed down from generation to generation. Lowe says he pays particular attention to the youngsters that show an interest in the sport. "I work with customers now that used to come in with their daddies. It's just good business . . . building the next generation of customers to come through your store."
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Title Annotation:archery dealers
Author:Smith, Ann Y.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:"Trend Crimes" and the gun dealer.
Next Article:Shot Show Review 1993: Dateline - Houston, Texas.

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