Archery Business recently interviewed archery retailers from Florida to Alaska and a few states in-between. We asked each about anticipated trends in the retail sector and how they might impact business. There were several common threads mentioned by retailers: young consumers, crossbow popularity and high-end bow sales. There was also the unmistakable influence of geography and the working man’s wages.
Tuffy Munson on youth archery participation
Tuffy’s Outpost, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Interest from youth is astounding, and they’re the future of our business. We help to bring archery into local schools, and we run youth-instruction leagues on Saturdays all winter long. We’ll easily top out the league at 125 kids. Some shops aren’t so involved with youth, but it’s an ultra-popular movement trending now.
Munson Quick Takes
- Equipment: [Parents] don’t want to pay $500 for a bow that collects dust. And the kids get to try archery. They either love it or they don’t. I can honestly say that in the last two years, I don’t recall any kids who didn’t either come back and buy a bow, or at least rent our equipment regularly. Many times the parents get into archery, too. We see that often.
- Crossbows Trending Up: The crossbow trend is one we anticipate won’t soon fade. We sell so many crossbows that we struggle to keep them stocked. Crossbows get people back into hunting who’ve fallen away due to time or physical constraints. We’re also seeing lots of kids hunting at young ages through Wisconsin’s mentored hunting program, and because few can pull the minimum draw weight required to hunt with a compound bow, their parents are buying them inexpensive crossbows. It’s a sale for me, but more importantly, it gets kids off the streets and into the woods. And that helps instill principles taught later on in hunter-safety class.
- High-End Bow Sales Trending Down: High-end bow sales have tapered off majorly. I believe that trend will carry through 2017, maybe even through 2019. The bulk of our customers are working-class folks who can’t or shouldn’t buy high-end bows. Manufacturers are innovating mid-priced bows, and customers who purchase them instead of high-end bows sacrifice little, if anything, and they’re saving money. That’s important to us. We’re sensitive to our customers’ budgets, and we tailor our advertising accordingly.
Dave Stoddard on high-end and traditional bows
Full Curl Archery, Anchorage, Alaska
Hunting bows are doing really well up here. No brands in particular; all of them, really. Of course, high-end bow sales are decreasing, and mid-priced bows are now the cream of the crop. The petroleum industry has laid off lots of folks, and many just can’t afford high-end bows anymore. I’m sure that will continue through 2017, if not longer.
Stoddard’s Quick Take
- Recurve Bows Are Hot: Recurve bows, surprisingly, are selling quite well, too. Some customers are buying them simply because they’re an inexpensive way to get into archery and bowhunting; it’s not like a compound where you need accessories to complete the setup. Most are shooting directly off the bow shelf with humble setups. Other customers want the heritage element and the associated challenges. Whatever the case, we’re selling more recurve bows than we have in a while. I’m sure that tendency will carry into 2017.
- Editor’s Bonus Fact: Stoddard’s high-end bow sales are down due to layoffs in the petroleum industry. For perspective, consider that one-third of Alaska’s jobs are tied to the oild and gas industry, according to Alaska Oil and Gas Association. Statewide, the industry generates 38 percent of all wages.
Marty Stubstad on soft sales, election years and waning media hype
Archery Headquarters, Rochester, Minnesota
Overall, sales were somewhat soft in 2016, and that’s expected since consumers tend to spend cautiously during an election year. However, high-end bows sold well, and [as] president of A.R.R.O. Buying Group, I heard similar reports across the board from other store owners. In contrast, entry-level bows were difficult to move.
Stubstad’s Quick Takes
- Mainstream-Media Hype For Archery Is Down. Many shops, mine included, offer recreational archery. But, archery’s mainstream-media hype has sloped. We definitely need to rekindle the flame and promote archery as a fun sport. The only problem with recreational archery is that it doesn’t pay bills. Still, it’s a good thing for communities, and it does lead some to try bowhunting.
- Minnesota Deer Herd Rebound. Deer numbers are finally on the upswing here in southeast Minnesota. Bowhunters can once again shoot between two and five deer – it varies by location. That’s going to encourage people to invest in hunting. When you can only shoot one deer, many people look at it like they would if they could catch only one fish. No one wants to spend a pile of money to catch one fish, and few want to spend liberally to shoot one deer. This deer-herd rebound is going to help us big time.
Tino Villaverde on “Recession-Proof” Hunters
All About Archery, Melbourne, Florida
Honestly, 2016 has been our best year ever. It’s almost as if hunters are recession-proof. People are still spending money. Our hot lines are NAP, QAD, Hoyt, T.R.U. Ball, TruGlo and Easton. They’re all moving. Fact is, I’m running out of inventory. And 2017 should produce similar – if not better – sales.
Villaverde’s Quick Takes
- More Accounts Of Crossbows Surging: Archery equipment creates most of our sales, but crossbows are doing well, too. Whatever I bring in sells. August and September are great months for selling crossbows here.
- Trail Cams Are Moving: Trail cameras and other little hunting accessories are all doing well. Scents and attractants are tapering off, and I think it’s because they’re more suited for stores in big-buck states. We had a few 2016 bows left that I’ve marked down and moved out, but that’s no big deal considering we had our best year.
Noble Sinclair On Local Economy and Recreational Archery Sales
Archery Shoppe, Albuquerque, New Mexico
- Recreational Archery Is Driving Our Sales. We sell many recurve bows and low-end compounds. High-end hunting-bow sales are relatively flat.
- Bowhunter Numbers And Correlating Sales Numbers: New Mexico only has approximately 12,000 bowhunters, compared to Colorado, which has 60,000, and Utah, which has 40,000. We don’t have access to enough bowhunters to survive on hunting sales alone. Plus, our early archery seasons are in September, so once October hits, hunting sales all but nosedive. We pick up again in December for Christmas, and of course we have late archery hunting seasons in January. Those are always good months for hunting sales.
- Thriving High-Tech Business Sector Sustains Bow Sales: New Mexico has lots of natural gas and some oil down south, so the state gets a lot of revenues from that. The state revenues are currently down about $600 million, so the state is raising taxes, but I don’t think there are really any layoffs. In Albuquerque, we have Sandia Labs and Los Alamos Labs nearby, so we’re in more of a high-tech area affected little by the oil and gas industries.
This post is a portion of the full article featured in Archery Business magazine’s January/February 2017 issue. If you’d like to read quick-takes from more archery retailers, check out past issues or subscribe for in-depth coverage.