Factory-fletched vs. hand-fletched arrows; do your customers have a preference? And which type adds the most to your bottomline? We asked three archery shop owners for their opinions on factory- vs. hand-fletched arrows. Check out their responses below.
Farmington, New Mexico
We sell about 70 percent factory-fletched arrows and 30 percent hand-fletched arrows. The obvious benefit of factory-fletched arrows is their convenience — we cut, insert and sell them. It’s a quick sale. In the factory-fletched options, we sell lots of Easton Axis, which retail for approximately $150 a dozen. We also sell lots of economically-priced pre-fletched arrows — Gold Tip, Easton and Beman.
We stock a limited supply of high-end factory-fletched arrows. This is because high-end consumers tend to be more particular/selective with their arrow setups.
Now, building arrows from bare shafts requires more time commitment, but it enables us to charge for labor, which is $1 per arrow. If customers bring in arrows that are already fletched, it takes extra time to strip and prep them for new fletching, so in that case, we charge a $2-per-arrow labor fee.
Another merit of hand-fletched arrows is that the customer can choose the fletch model, color and length. If they want wraps, we can install those, too. Building custom arrows really showcases our customer service. Customers request what they want, and we deliver.
Bohning Blazer Vanes are probably our store’s most requested vanes. We also fletch many arrows with the Bohning Heat and AAE Pro Max and Hunter Max vanes. I occasionally recommend vanes for specific setups, but I don’t really push anything on my customers. I find that manufacturer advertising really sells the vanes.
We fletch most of our shafts with the Arizona E-Z Fletch. It works well with the shorter, stiffer vanes and allows three vanes to be adhered simultaneously, which saves us time. When someone is more particular on helical, we fletch with the Last Chance Archery Vane Master Pro.
Hand-fletched arrows are the staple here. In fact, they make up approximately 95 percent of our arrow sales. The few factory-fletched arrows we do sell are priced economically for low-budget customers. The problem with factory-fletched arrows is that the fletching is straight.
As bowhunters, we should all be shooting as much helical as possible. You see, mechanical broadheads are illegal here in Oregon, so to achieve optimal flight with fixed-blade heads, we not only need a well-tuned bow, but also arrows fletched to steer the broadheads precisely.
Of course, some customers simply don’t understand the differences between straight and helical-fletch styles. I saved an article that was written on the matter a while back, and I let them read it so they can learn and understand. After reading it, they agree that helical is best.
The Easton Axis is probably our best-selling arrow, and it retails for $120 per dozen. We order in lots of Easton shafts, fletch them ourselves, and then put them on the shelf. At any given time, we have approximately 50 dozen hand-fletched arrows on the floor and ready to sell.
We also build custom arrows to order. Bohning Blazer Vanes are by far the most requested fletching. We use Saunders Arrow Mate N.P.V. adhesive, and we’ve never had a vane peel off. For jigs, we use three tables of Bitzenburger single jigs. We’ve been operating for 44 years, and we still have the original Bitzenburger jigs. They just won’t quit.
We dip and crest lots of arrows, too. Even with the advent of arrow wraps, many customers still request dipping and cresting.
By the numbers, we sell more factory-fletched arrows than custom-fletched arrows. And, we sell them in all price ranges — everything from the Gold Tip Lightning youth arrow to the high-end Carbon Express Maxima RED. Factory-fletched arrows are a huge time-saver for us. The downside is that most factory-fletched arrows look more or less the same.
Now, we are seeing increases in requests for custom-fletched arrows. We fletch most bowhunting arrows with 3-inch Bohning X Vanes, and target shooters usually request something shorter in the Bohning line. We’ve had very good success fletching with the AAE Fletch III fletching jig. It’s amazingly simple and very affordable. Still, our favorite is the Bitzenburger jig. As a matter of fact, I just ordered another six of them.
Building custom arrows inevitably requires time and thought, so we do charge for our labor. And, of course, we charge labor fees on top of materials when arrows purchased elsewhere are brought into our store to be fletched, cut and inserted.
We keep a variety of factory- and hand-fletched arrows in stock and ready to be cut and inserted. Gold Tip and Black Eagle are my strongest arrow brands in terms of sales.