Three veteran archery retailers provide honest answers regarding how their pro shop stacks up against the competition.
As for strengths, we are a full-service pro shop that offers outstanding customer service. We specialize in tuning equipment to each individual shooter so they get optimal accuracy and shooting results.
Our social media presence is lacking, but we realize it, and we are working to strengthen that area of our business. Obviously, more posts on Facebook and Instagram will help us, too. We’re handling our social media in-house, so we’re learning as we go.
An existing opportunity we are pursuing heavily right now is the youth and beginner category. We’re offering classes, youth programs and equipment rentals to aggressively target that market/demographic category. Of course, this ties in with our social media presence. We understand that youth spend considerable time on social media, so we’ll target a great deal of our posts toward them. I’m sure we’ll see immeasurable results from that.
I’m not really aware of any threats in our area. We’re seeing everything on the upswing, not the downward spiral. I predict there won’t be any major threats to our business within the foreseeable future.
Since we have a Scheels and Cabela’s in town, our shop’s foremost strength is our archery expertise and knowledge. We live it daily, and our customers know and rely on that. When a new product comes out, we know about it and can relay it to our customers.
Additionally, we’re experts at tuning bows. We’ve seen it all, so when a major tuning issue or similar problem surfaces, we can handle it correctly, unlike some of the larger sporting goods stores. Simply put, we have the passion for it, along with years and years of experience. If there is a problem with equipment, we don’t sweep it under the rug or tell the customer they’re doing something wrong. We solve it, and they appreciate that.
Staffing always presents challenges. There aren’t enough of us during the busy seasons. Being a family business, we simply can’t hire six people — our budget won’t support it, plus it’s nearly impossible to find individuals willing to work retail who also share our expertise and passion for archery. I don’t want just anyone working on bows. Our name is on the line, so every bow that leaves the store must be set up or serviced properly. So, we have only three people working, and when it gets busy, it takes us a while to address all of our customers’ needs.
An opportunity we’re working toward is increasing our website sales. I believe this will bolster our bottom line once we reach the level where we need to be.
Traditionally, we’ve steered away from classes and seminars, but in 2018, we’ll explore those opportunities more to help drive customer traffic. We’ll do some free seminars and stuff like that.
Threats? You bet. Amazon sucks. There are so many people selling online, and many online retailers have little to no overhead expenses. And, with the volume of merchandise they sell, they don’t need to hit the 30-point margin that I need to here at my shop. Arrows are probably the most common product people buy online and bring into our store. I charge $1 to cut and insert each arrow.
The box stores are also a threat. Scheels built one of its largest stores here in Billings. Of course, it offers one-stop shopping for the whole family. We’ll continue to do what we do best: offer customers our knowledge, experience and sound customer service to keep a competitive edge.
We don’t just sell a bow and send the customer on their way. We’ll give them a follow-up call to make sure they’re completely satisfied with their purchase.
Additionally, we keep our shelves stocked with relevant merchandise. We bring in items that are heavily advertised. Manufacturers spend thousands on advertising their products, which helps me sell them more easily and with less advertising on my end. In other words, why would I work twice as hard to sell a product that isn’t advertised? However, we do screen through products to make sure we’re selling quality merchandise. We usually receive samples to try out before committing to buy. I have an engineering background, which is highly beneficial when testing new products.
Our greatest weakness is manpower. Our bow technicians get swamped during the busy season. It becomes challenging to handle all of our customers and keep up with service and repairs. The most important thing is to continue turning out quality service despite the busy atmosphere. Not enough shops maintain that mentality, and they push bows across their service counter as quickly as possible. Everyone loses.
We’ll expand upon our existing outreach initiative. We currently work with 4-H and similar groups, but we intend to do more. We host some fundraisers, and we charge very little for them to use the facility. Helping youth, in turn, helps our industry. They are tomorrow’s customers, and some will become future employees.
“Garage dealers” hurt our business, and unfortunately, manufacturers are poor at qualifying people as “dealers.” These people have few expenses — maybe a bow press and $5,000 worth of equipment — as compared to a shop like mine. Our property alone is a $250,000 investment.