Why Archery Pro Shops Still Matter

How archery pro shops can win the sales war with online retailers and big box stores.

Why Archery Pro Shops Still Matter

The information age. Anything and everything folks want to know resides a few clicks away on the internet. Want to cook your roast to the ideal internal temperature but can’t remember the number? Need the know how to change the brake pads on your vehicle? Google it and you’ll find your answers.

Online shopping has also risen to sky-shattering levels. It makes buying things easier than ever and is all done from the comforts of your home. I can sit on my couch and order all of my Christmas gifts without even getting up. These online advancements are great, and they no doubt make life a bit easier. Along with that positivity though, there is a bit of a rub to it all.

In terms of the archery and bowhunting world, many folks are turning to the internet for answers first, rather than heading into their local pro shop for guidance right off the bat. Between how-to videos, podcasts, and online articles, there is more than enough info floating around out there. Many of today’s archers and bowhunters are not only buying most of their gear online and possibly never stepping foot in a pro shop, but they’re also trying to learn how to do their own bow tuning. While that all is true, pro shops still have their place and still absolutely matter. Here’s why.

Understand that some of your customers will appreciate learning how to handle relatively easy DIY jobs. Don’t be afraid to coach them.
Understand that some of your customers will appreciate learning how to handle relatively easy DIY jobs. Don’t be afraid to coach them.

DIY Goes Only So Far

The fact that people are taking enough of an interest in archery and bowhunting to try and walk the path on their own is quite encouraging for our sport. It shows a needed enthusiasm for a way of life that is getting less and less popular. My dad always told me something when I was younger, though. He said, “You learn from those who are better than you, Josh.” And that right there is one of the reasons why this DIY mentality goes only so far. Someone can learn only so much from listening to podcasts and watching videos. Sometimes, you just need the aid of a professional.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning how to do things on your own, as long as there is proper guidance ahead of that. Someone to set you on the right path right out of the gate. Archery pro shops are a fantastic place to turn for that very guidance. Most pro shops offer some type of coaching, and if they don’t, they should. This is a great way to form good habits in your customers shooting from day one. Good coaching goes a long way and will help build a solid foundation in anyone’s archery game. Plus, it helps solidify relationships throughout your customer base.

Proper bow tuning techniques is another area that deserves mention. Anyone out there can start up a podcast and start boasting about bow tuning. No certification needed I might add. This causes a load of problems for people not knowing what they’re doing. And who is there to fix the issue? Pro shops. Archery techs have the ability to walk customers through the tuning process from front to back and truly educate them. The amount of people I’ve sent to the pro shop I go to because they were having bow tuning issues is a long list. DIY goes only so far here. At the end of the day, good arrow flight stomps all, and good bow tuning is how one gets there.


Hands On

A few years back I was having a difficult time trying to find the right pair of boots for the upcoming hunting season. Before this boot search, and before online shopping was as prevalent as it is now, I’d just head into my local pro shop and try on as many boots as I could. After a bit of that, I’d find what I was looking for and then head home a happy customer. End of story. That’s about as easy as it comes right there. Fast-forward to my recent boot search story and we are met with a different beast entirely. Many of the boots I was interested in simply weren’t being sold in many local stores. So, this meant I’d have to order them, try them on at home, and then send them back if I didn’t like them. It was a pain in the butt, and I longed for just being able to walk into my local pro shop to purchase what I wanted. Thankfully, many of the higher end boots are now being sold in more stores.

The hands-on experience one gets from a pro shop will leave much more of an impression on them than making a few clicks on their computer. It not only gives pro shops the opportunity to educate their customers on the product, but they’ll have more confidence in said product after the sale. That’s an important takeaway a bowhunter doesn’t get from online shopping. At the tail end of my boot search mentioned earlier, it was the insight of my pro shop that put a period at the end of the search. They were the experts who pointed me in the right direction and ultimately what led me to having happy feet in the field. What did it wasn’t a new boot; it was a lacing technique. So, not only did I squash any boot issues, they helped me save money at the same time.

Something else to note here is customer satisfaction. When someone buys a product on the internet sight unseen, there is always a bit of “what if” behind the purchase. Stuff such as “I hope this high-priced camo jacket fits,” or “I hope I like the draw cycle of this new bow.” Isn’t that a hoot? The convenience might be there, but the customer satisfaction looms overhead in a state of hesitance. Those two examples I gave are two that are easily handled with the hands-on experience provided by a pro shop. Customers can make sure they get the jacket that actually fits or find that bow that works best for them. And when they leave your shop, they’ll do so with a smile on their face, instead of that “what if” feeling.

Every customer’s new bow should be shooting bullet holes through paper before it leaves your shop. Never settle for “good enough.”
Every customer’s new bow should be shooting bullet holes through paper before it leaves your shop. Never settle for “good enough.”

Big Box vs. Pro Shops

As we navigate the discussion of “why pro shops still matter,” it would be unjust of me to not touch on where the big box stores fall in all of this. Both big box stores and pro shops provide a great deal of value to the customer, but the experience between the two is different entirely.


Big Box Experience

When I was a kid, I remember walking into the big box stores would fill me with a sense of wonder. Suddenly, the pages I was staring at in a catalog were coming to life right before me. These places were so huge, and I felt as if there was no way I’d ever see all that they had to offer. They had everything. If you needed it, they’ve got it. I have some pretty fond memories of going to these stores with my dad and bugging him to buy me something around every corner. Whether it was asking for a new fishing lure or a new bow, you know you did it, too! While big box stores seem to be never short on stock, they do fall short somewhere else, and that wasn’t something I realized until I was older.

One of the rubs with these powerhouse stores doesn’t entirely rest with what they are selling, but with who is doing the selling. These are some nice folks, don’t get me wrong, but they aren’t always what they seem. Just because someone is working in the archery department doesn’t mean they are an archer or bowhunter themselves. That’s a troubling thought and one that doesn’t cross the majority of minds that walk through these places.

A few years back a friend of mine bought a used bow from a classified ad. After doing so, he went into one of the big box stores to get it set up and tuned. Now, brace yourselves here, as this is all truth: The gentleman behind the counter DRY-FIRED THE BOW— on purpose! With all due respect, if the fella knew his way around a bow, he would have never ever done something like that. (Luckily, the company that made the bow sent my friend a brand new replacement. That’s top-notch customer service from the manufacturer.)

Another small disadvantage is these stores generally don’t carry the top-notch makes and models of bows or their accessories. Most of their stock is geared toward price-point items. So, if someone wants the best of the best, they typically aren’t going to find it in a big box store.

Big box stores and online retailers can’t offer specific shooting advice. Take the time to give tips on how archers can improve their technique.
Big box stores and online retailers can’t offer specific shooting advice. Take the time to give tips on how archers can improve their technique.

Pro Shop Experience

After I got older, it became apparent that I needed to start paying attention to pro shops. Between my own experiences and ones of friends, big box stores just weren’t going to cut it for my archery and bowhunting needs. This might sound silly, but I remember being nervous the first time I ever called an archery pro shop. I was a beginner and feared being judged on my lack of knowledge. A short conversation and 20-minute drive later, I found myself standing in a pro shop. It was different than the big box stores I remembered as a child. This was a much smaller establishment. It may have been smaller, but it had all of the top brands that the big stores didn’t have, though. And the people who worked there? Salt-of-the-earth bowhunters who would spend an hour talking hunting without taking your credit card. When I walked out of that shop, not only did I leave with the bow I wanted, but I also left with a few new friends. This is yet another way pro shops can solidify long-term relationships with their customers.

My best friend’s cousin drew a top caliber early archery bull tag here in Arizona a few years ago. It was the young man’s first elk hunt ever, and what a one to have as is first. Just before that hunt, his current bow broke, and he was left scratching his head at what to do. Surely, he’d get it fixed, but there was no way it would be done in time for his elk hunt. When he brought his broken bow into the pro shop we all frequent, his worries were put to rest. They set up a brand new bow for him and let him borrow it for his hunt. He ended up shooting a fantastic bull — an experience that would have never happened had it not been for the pro shop’s willingness to help a hunter in need. That purity a pro shop offers is nothing to scoff at; it’s yet another reason pro shops still matter in these changing times.

Online retailers are convenient for purchasing many products, but for items such as boots and bows, nothing beats the in-person experience.
Online retailers are convenient for purchasing many products, but for items such as boots and bows, nothing beats the in-person experience.

How to Adapt to Changing Times

With time, things change. Progression is imminent, whether we accept it or not. In order to get a better sense of how those changes through time have affected pro shops in particular, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josiah Richards, who runs Ross Outdoors Archery and Hunting Pro Shop located in Phoenix, Arizona.


JK: How long have you been running Ross Outdoors?

Richards: 10 years


JK: What has changed from then to now?

Richards: In today’s market, we are dealing with a much more educated customer base. The vast amount of information available online allows customers the chance to research bows and accessories before they ever step foot in our store. I see this as a positive thing; the customer is often excited when they show up to the shop and may already know which bow they are leaning toward before they ever fire the first arrow.


JK: How has online shopping affected your pro shop?

Richards: In today’s day and age, just about anything can be purchased online and shipped to your house within a few days. That leaves a pro shop no choice but to excel in customer service if they are to have a fighting chance of competing in today’s market. Product knowledge and a willingness to help the customer are paramount.


JK: What separates pro shops from big box stores?

Richards: The biggest difference is the technical skill and knowledge that our employees possess. Our archery technicians are factory-trained professionals who work on archery equipment day in and day out. They are passionate about the work they put out, and are committed to seeing our customers succeed. You will not find this level of passion at a big box store.


JK: How have you adapted to the changing times?

Richards: It seems there are more and more avenues online providing information and encouraging customers to become DIY bow technicians. This movement makes having a good online presence for your store that much more important. Having an up-to-date and professional website will ensure a customer knows they are not wasting their time making a trip to your establishment.


JK: Is social media a priority for this adaptation?

Richards: It goes hand and hand with having a good website. Many customers will research your business and check reviews on Google and Facebook before spending their time driving to a store. Social media helps potential customers build a relationship and familiarity with a pro shop before they ever set foot through your door.


Pro Shops Are Here to Stay

So, you see? While things may change over time, there are some things that will remain the same. The need for archery pro shops is one of them, especially with how many new bowhunters are popping up nowadays. They, along with many others, need guidance, and your shop is there to provide them with a hands-on experience that cannot be simply replicated online or in a big box store. Bows can be actually picked up and shot, proper tuning can be taken care of, and it can be capped off followed by a solid handshake — and maybe a hunting story . . . or two.


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