Poor attitudes, cobweb-strung corners, gravel-loaded floormats and dust-coated, obsolete merchandise — these and many other ailments give your pro shop an unprofessional “hobby-shop” appearance that won’t interest or attract new customers, especially Millennials. Although customers notice these issues, storeowners can easily overlook the most basic aspects of their businesses, and their store’s success suffers.
While many pro shops address these details to portray a positive and exciting atmosphere, many don’t. I’ve recently visited multiple shops that have dirty floors, musty-smelling air and ancient merchandise with time-yellowed packaging. Nothing about them exudes excitement or professionalism. When I find myself in such a store — archery-related or otherwise — I quickly browse the shelves just to be courteous, then leave. I’m easy to please, so if I leave quickly, I can only imagine how many customers stores like this lose annually.
Losing customers is a chance you can’t take. If one area of your business lacks, the entire store suffers. You must keep your fingers on all pulses that drive your store’s success so you can identify and fix issues before they become problems.
Regardless of how long you’ve been in business or how successful you are, I urge you to closely examine all facets of your store. Be open-minded and willing to make changes to bolster your store’s appeal. To get you started, I’ve outlined 12 ways to do this. Let’s review.
1. Dust, Sweep, Vacuum and Mop Weekly
Dusty shelves imply that you don’t clean your store, and dusty packages suggest that your merchandise hasn’t been selling. Most people spend little time in dirty places and don’t want to buy items that appear to have been on a peg for a year or longer.
Likewise, dirty floors will make your shop look like the dumps. If you do your own cleaning, do it correctly and thoroughly. This will make the job easier each time maintenance cleaning is required. If you and your employees are too busy handling other store duties, hire a professional cleaning service to keep your store clean and attractive. It will create a far more appealing atmosphere where customers will want to spend time.
2. Add a Coffee Bar
Inevitably, you won’t always be able to assist every customer the second they walk through your door. Occasionally, you and your staff will be momentarily tied up helping other customers and taking phone calls. When this happens, you must be able to entertain your customers, or they most likely won’t stick around.
Some stores keep looped hunting DVDs playing, and this is a great idea, but it alone isn’t enough. Create a coffee bar in a designated waiting area with seating. The Keurig machine is perfect for this application because you can offer your customers fresh coffee on demand, and because K-cups are available for tea, coffee (flavored and unflavored; caffeinated and decaffeinated), and hot cider or cocoa. In other words, there’s something for everyone. You may look at this as another expense, but if it keeps one customer around until you can assist him or her, the coffee bar will pay for itself.
3. Offer Concession Foods
Offering jerky, chips, peanuts, candy bars and other snack items is another good idea. Of course, these items will cost you more than the coffee bar, so you’ll want to charge at least your cost for these items (although you could mark them up a little to make it worthwhile). Not only will snack items keep your customers around longer, but you can always offer a customer who’s been patiently waiting for assistance a snack on the house as a courtesy.
4. Update Your Website
I visit several archery shop websites each month while compiling Archery Business’ back-page column, “Behind the Counter.” Many are interactive, up to date and user-friendly. Others are dated, non-engaging and difficult to navigate. If that’s you, have a pro web developer design a new website for you. I’ve launched several websites myself. If you’re interested in learning more, drop me a line on Facebook. Regardless, make sure your website is aesthetically appealing, clean and modern, with easy navigation. It should also be easy to find through search engines.
5. Don’t be Overly Formal
Sincere speech delivery is everything. Tailor every word you speak to the individual customer you’re working with. If you don’t, customers will perceive that you’re after one thing: their money. Don’t convey that impression.
6. Smile and be Friendly
A big, genuine smile goes a long way. It opens opportunities for further dialogue. Archery storeowner Tuffy Munson of Wisconsin views each of his customers as friends, not merely customers. And if they need help with something, even if its unrelated to archery, he lends a helping hand. “We treat our customers like family,” he said. “Actually, we treat everyone that way. Not because we want their money, but because we genuinely care about them. And they know that. We’re a family-run store, and we do tons of things for people outside the store. If someone needs a hand, we help them. We’ve had instances where a customer loses a loved one, and when they come into the store, we’ll cry with them.”
7. Offer Solutions
When it comes to sales presentations, don’t try to upsell people to more expensive items. Keep your customers’ best interests in mind. Employ a consultative selling strategy that seeks to solve problems. Learn each customer’s budget and the solutions they need, then offer them. Help your customers; don’t try to conquer them.
8. Host Informative Seminars
Archery and bowhunting, in their advanced forms, are quite complex. Most customers looking to ramp up their game welcome information. The more information you can offer these customers, the more they’ll recognize that you’re offering solutions, not just merchandise. Seminars are a great way to draw people to your store, too, which will inspire some sales. The good thing about seminars is that you can offer them and the people who really want to learn will show up. Free admission and good publicity will ensure a great turnout.
On another note, paid shooting lessons offered by a certified shooting coach, be it you or someone else, will bring in some revenue. They’ll also give your serious customers the meat and potatoes of how to become a deadly archery marksman. Both seminars and lessons show your customers that your store is a happening place, and that’s good for business.
9. Offer Women’s Gear
Not long ago, women’s bows and hunting apparel were essentially glorified youth products. The tables have turned, and manufacturers now offer archery and bowhunting equipment tailored specifically to women. Don’t try to get women customers into ill-fitting bows, apparel, etc. Instead, offer women-specific merchandise, and wave that flag proudly. Advertise it everywhere.
Women in bowhunting is one of the industry’s largest movements, and the only way to capitalize and get women into your store is to make your shop appeal to them. They seek a safe, clean atmosphere with products that are made for them. Also, sell cool T-shirts and other items for the women who don’t hunt. If they’re entertained, they’ll likely allow their husbands to stay longer and visit more often.
10. Provide Seating or a Waiting Area
As I mentioned earlier, a waiting area set up with drinks is a great idea, especially for those who’re waiting to be helped or who’re waiting for you to finish servicing their equipment. Make your customers feel comfortable while they wait. Consider: Few people patronize a car mechanic who has no waiting area or comfy chairs. People don’t want to stand for a couple hours. It’s uncomfortable. Make the time pass quickly with good seating, some hunting magazines and the coffee bar I mentioned earlier.
11. Rotate Merchandise
Stores that don’t periodically rotate their merchandise are boring, and the products that aren’t highlighted in the highly visible areas of your store will go unnoticed and unsold. When seasons change, so should your merchandising displays. Keep products moving. Your regular customers will notice, and it will bring them in often to see what’s new. Situate seasonal products in highly visible areas during their respective seasons. If it’s deer grunt calls and decoys, put them where they’ll be seen from September through November. If it’s food plot seed or minerals, highlight them during winter’s last leg through early summer.
On the other hand, don’t reset your shelves so often that customers struggle to find what they’re looking for. If your customers must search for popular items, you’re doing something wrong.
12. Check and Clean the Restroom Often
Perhaps the most distasteful thing a customer can encounter is a dirty sink and toilet when they use the restroom. Restrooms must be located conveniently, and if they’re behind the counter, make sure the path leading to them is uncluttered. If you can’t find the time to inspect and clean the bathroom throughout the day, make sure one of your employees does.
Make Your Pro Shop Pop
Now that we’ve reviewed 12 ways to make your pro shop more inviting, do it! It may seem like a big leap, so work on implementing one detail at a time. Pay these dozen details their due attention, and you’ll make your pro shop a pleasant place to be — and your sales will reflect your efforts.
All photos credit: John Hafner; Featured photo: A bright, clean, comfortable store sends the message that the shop owner is professional and concerned about the customer experience.