I often write about the importance of us working together — functioning as one unit to remain profitable and keep the lights on. Sharing information back and forth, pushing one another to make each other better. Iron sharpens iron, right?
In keeping with that theme, I recently took the time to interview five pro shop owners that have been in business for no less than 15 years. Each gave me their 2 minutes of truth on one of the following product categories: broadheads, crossbows, compound bows, targets, treestands/ground blinds, hunt wear and hunt gear.
Because of the honest nature of their answers, each asked to remain anonymous. Here’s some refreshing truth from archery dealers.
“If you’re a serious archery shop and don’t have a ‘serious’ selection of broadheads, you’re not going to make it long. No, we don’t carry every brand out there. This is a saturated portion of the accessory market. Every year newbie companies jump on the sharp-edge scene. Many of these newcomers simply don’t produce good heads. Some do but aren’t able to fill orders. You need to do your research. See what others are saying in chat rooms and the like. We also order at least one pack of any new head that is getting any type of attention and test it. You need a good selection of proven mechanical and fixed-blade heads on hand.”
“I live in a state where crossbows are allowed during regular archery seasons. I don’t agree with it, but I run a business to make money, and crossbows generate some good income for my shop. I would be lying to you if I said guys and gals weren’t interested in the super-fast rigs that can produce exceptional groups out to 100 yards. Again, I don’t agree with shooting animals at this distance, but these are the crossbows I’m selling.”
“In 2017, our flagship compound business was down 18.5 percent. However, our mid-priced ($400 to $700) bow category was up 34 percent. Today’s compounds are amazing, and a few of this year’s models that I’ve shot are probably the best all-around bows I’ve ever fired, but their price tags don’t appeal to everyone. You need a selection of them, but be sure to have plenty of other price options on hand as well.”
“Great. Thanks for giving me the least sexy of all the categories. We sell lots of targets, but we live in an area where there are three and four different 3-D and indoor tournaments each week. We go through the bag targets big time. We do OK when it comes to foam targets, and we even sell a few 3-D targets from time to time. However, big bag targets that can take lots and lots and lots of abuse seem to be the way to go if you’re in an area like ours.”
“Before you commit to carrying treestands and ground blinds, take a look at your geographic location and your clientele. Too many times we get caught up in carrying a product, regardless of the category, because it’s awesome and new. I don’t care how awesome a product is. If my customers won’t buy it, it’s just taking up space in my shop. We are located in the Midwest, and treestand hunting is a big deal. We have lots and lots of public land around our area, which makes lock-on and climber stands very popular. We carry a bunch of different brands/models and do really well with them. In fact, the lock-on market is one of our biggest categories. We also do good with ground blinds because of all the turkeys in the area. My cousin, however, owns a shop out West and they don’t carry a single treestand. Well, they did for a few years but never sold one.”
“Our shop is in the heart of the West. Around here it’s all about big bulls and big muley bucks. We sell Sitka like it’s going out of style. We also do pretty well with Browning’s Speed Line. We don’t carry any stick-and-leaf patterns. They just don’t sell out here anymore. I think any shop can make money on clothing, but you have to know what your customers want and match the clothing you carry to the type of terrain and weather conditions your customers will find themselves in.”
“Cameras! You gotta have some good cameras on hand all year. This is a growing market for us. We are located in the East, and whitetail, turkey and bear are the big-time animals here. Most bowhunters want to run cameras. We sell lots of them. Another growing gear category for us is supplements. This health kick even has our sit-and-wait-on-game crowd getting in shape and buying vitamins, drink mixes, etc.”
There you have it. Pure truth from those in the trenches. The big selling season is looming. May your cash registers sing loudly.
Images by John Hafner