2017 Dealers of the Year: Part 1

This year’s Dealers of the Year work hard at recruiting new archers with youth programs, inviting decor, exciting events, social media and tactics from complementary industries. Learn more here.
2017 Dealers of the Year: Part 1

No Limits Archery

Phil Mendoza
3050 E 78th Avenue
Denver, CO 80229
(303) 270-0185

The fitness industry is hot right now, particularly among Millennials, although even Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are trying various new workout trends. Some archery pro shop owners might not find that important, but Phil Mendoza of No Limits Archery looked at the fitness industry and saw opportunity.

A hard-core athlete and bowhunter himself, Phil found a way to incorporate fitness and archery to attract new customers and better serve his existing client base. The result is an innovative program that has helped to fuel No Limits Archery’s growth.

But one cool program isn’t enough to keep a shop successful. It’s Phil’s drive and vision that make No Limits one of this year’s Dealers of the Year. After his favorite archery shop was sold to a new owner, Phil, who competed in tournament archery and was, in his words, “one of the guys you’d find hanging out there after work,” felt that the vibe of the shop changed.

“Around the same time, two Sportsman’s Warehouses in Denver closed their doors,” he explained. “I just felt there was going to be a void for the archery community, and I decided to give it a shot.”

And while Phil continues to operate another business as his “day job,” the archery shop continues to grow.

AB: What are the specific keys to your success?

Phil: Understanding that we live in an instant-gratification world. If somebody wants something now, with the internet, they have the option to get information and even purchase something right there through Amazon or whatever platform. My mentality is not to fight that but to supplement it. Customers can get a product online and have it shipped in two or three days, but they’ll pay a few dollars extra if they can come into your shop and put their hands on it today. So understanding how to better manage my inventory was huge.

We opened up in a facility that made us the biggest archery range within 100 miles from the first day we opened. So from a shooting facility, we started out on the big side. On the pro shop side, we started on the small side. We had a few mid-range bow lines and our inventory was very small. We just progressively built it. When money would come in I would order more inventory. I think for the first five years I didn’t take a dime out of the company. I was able to do that because I had a second business. It was hard. The archery industry is a very tough industry from many standpoints, and I almost quit many times. But I continued to surround myself with great employees and customers, and we just kept the snowball going until all of a sudden it felt like we were no longer pushing the snowball up a hill.

We definitely don’t know everything. We always keep our ears open to learn more. But it started with me being a customer and visiting other shops and shooting at other shops. I was shooting whenever I could. I saw what was out there and I just thought the Denver area was craving a more modern style of shop.

The finance part of the business was the other thing. Once I was able to get into a buy group, we noticed instant growth. I wouldn’t say overnight, but it was very pronounced once we were able to purchase with buy group pricing and go direct with many of the manufacturers. They do offer a number of incentives that make a difference.

AB: How do you grow your customer base?

Phil: In the past, we’ve done Groupons and LivingSocial promotions. That brought in a lot of customers, and we’ve been able to retain a lot of those customers. We did those for three or four years, and it really brought in a lot of non-hunting, non-committed archers. Just your average, everyday recreationalist who wanted to try something new. Then we offer rental equipment. A lot of those people still come in, sometimes once a month, sometimes twice a month. But when you look at the number of Groupons and LivingSocial that we were able to do – upwards of 2,000 over a few years’ timeframe. To be able to retain a lot of those people – and then they’ll bring their friends – that was huge.

And then customer retention. We offer a very clean environment. We offer a very friendly environment. We have rental equipment that’s functional. We try to make it as enjoyable an experience as you can get for roughly $15. For someone to come in, rent a bow and shoot on the range for a day, it’s not a very high-dollar item. But when you take into account that there are a lot of those average, everyday recreationalists, you understand they may never buy a bow, but they’re still supplementing your growth.

With our youth program, our JOAD program, we have very high-level coaching. We have a husband-and-wife team that are Level 4 coaches, US Archery-certified. We try to align ourselves with the programs that are working, like the JOAD program.

And we try not to say no. If there’s a birthday party, okay. If there’s a school that wants to bring in a field trip, okay. If there’s a summer camp that wants to work alongside our program, okay. If there’s a radio station that wants to do a program, yes, we’ll do it. I try to not say no, because the more people that come in the more opportunities there are to gain and retain customers.

AB: What are some lessons you’ve learned that have made you a better dealer?

Phil: At first, customers would come into the shop for certain services and I wouldn’t charge for them. I would give a buddy a deal, or I would tell someone that I didn’t have to charge full price for something. When I stopped doing that, when I had established pricing, properly displayed, and I saw for myself the value in what we were offering to the consumer, that’s when things took off. I realized there are certain things customers come to us for. They come for a particular service. And it should be just like any other service. If you go get your oil changed, you’re not going to ask for a discount on the service. There are things that we do as everyday Americans that are part of normal business. If you go to a restaurant, you pay your bill. At the archery shop, it should be no different.

I want to be people’s friend. I want to be someone they trust who’s not going to take advantage of them. But at the same time, we’re a business that’s providing a service – a very valuable service – and a knowledge base that the average archer doesn’t have. From that point it was about finding the balance of properly displaying our prices and properly valuing the services we offer as a shop.

AB: How did the idea for the Alpha Bowhunting Challenge come about?

Phil: I’ve competed in Trained to Hunt, which is an extreme mountain-type obstacle-course race that includes archery, since 2013. And for the first couple years, we worked alongside CrossFit gyms to incorporate fitness with archery. The fitness community is much bigger than archery. There are way more people that work out. Everything about the fitness industry is ahead of the curve compared to archery and bowhunting. Being able to tap into CrossFit or other fitness aspects has been a great recipe for success.

Recently, we created our own event, which is the Alpha Bowhunting Challenge. This is our second year doing it. I teamed up with a family member who owns a CrossFit gym, Anchor CrossFit, that’s 10 minutes away from our shop. He comes in once a week and puts on a workout that’s very much catered to Western-style hunting. It’s going to benefit the hunter. Then I implement some of the shooting drills and we mix them in between. We have a good group, get in a good workout. We run it in the spring and summer months leading up to the season. We’re just trying to provide another outlet, new members, different members, just trying to reach out and offer more options.

AB: What products are you excited to sell?

Phil: The bread and butter, the bows – it’s always that. It’s tough because the bow lines change bow models every year. There are times when there are great products out there that we wish wouldn’t change for a couple years. But on the positive side, being able to set somebody up with their first bow. Or being able to set somebody up with a bow when they’ve saved up. It’s expensive. Some people might have to save up $1,000, $2,000 if they want to get fully outfitted with the highest-end equipment. Whether it’s target shooting, bowhunting, whatever journey they want to move forward on, being able to set them up with a new bow, or their first bow, gives me a lot of fulfillment. Because you know it’s a great activity for them to be a part of.

AB: What advice would you offer other retailers?

Phil: I would say to new retailers, if it’s something that you’re really passionate about, as long as your message is clear and you’re providing a great service and a great product for your customers, you’ll find your place. Look into a buy group, look anywhere that’s going to offer you an incentive to boost your bottom line. That’s measurable. If you get 8 percent off of certain products by going directly to a manufacturer through a buy group, that’s measurable. And understand that the profit margins in the archery industry are not great, so persistence is key.

For shops that are looking to evolve, I would say that what I’ve tried to do is look at other industries and see where they’re capitalizing. Like the fitness industry. There are so many other platforms that are so far ahead of archery. Whatever it is that drives other industries faster, I look to see what’s working for them and see how I can implement something they’re doing in archery. That’s really helped us. Just having our eyes open and being open to anything.

Featured photo: No Limits Archery's Facebook page


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