Neal Kiehne, Archery Unlimited LLC, Etna, Wyoming
“It’s important to go into the new year with a positive attitude, but it helps to do some things in the store to feel positive about,” Kiehne said. “One thing we’re doing is expanding our indoor range. We’re in western Wyoming, and winter lasts seven months of the year around here. That’s why we think an indoor range will be popular with our customers, right from the start. That should help increase our first quarter considerably.
“We’re not sure how many people to expect, but we’ll have a four-lane, 40-yard range, so they’ll have some options. We won’t know until we try it, but it’s not like people around here have lots of options once the snow starts flying. About the only thing we can do in winter is ride snowmobiles and plow snow, so we think they’ll like our indoor range.
“The other good news is that people around here are starting to work again. The economy is improving. I think 2012 will be a good year for us. When people go back to work, they always have a more positive attitude.
“We’re also seeing more parents quizzing us about our National Archery in the Schools Program. It seems people often drop out of archery when they get married, but when they become parents and their kids get into NASP, they start shooting again. I’ve been part of NASP for a while now and travel extensively for NASP, so I know it’s good for our business.
“We expect to keep doing well with the Hoyt carbon bows next year, too. Even with their price, they’ve been popular with elk and mule deer hunters. They like the shorter axle-to-axle lengths, especially guys who spend a lot of time in the mountains. Shorter and lighter is always better for them, and the bows shoot phenomenally well.”
Nate Reider, co-owner, Xtreme Archery LLC, York, Pennsylvania
“We plan to get into more advertising than before,” Reider said. “We’ve now reached the size where we can do some TV advertising. We’d also like to get on more billboards and local radio. We got a four-segment deal for TV, and we’re looking at two-week segments for radio.
“We’re also looking forward to our winter leagues. Our leagues start January 1 and run till spring and early summer. We have five different leagues for everyone from beginners to pro shooters. We keep the pros in their own league so they don’t discourage our other shooters. We run youth leagues, couples leagues, singles men leagues, singles women leagues and traditional-bow leagues. People like to have options.
“A lot of our early-season bow sales depend on how many of last year’s bows we have left. When new bows start arriving in November and December, we’ll be left holding the previous years’ models if we don’t drop their price. We do Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving, and keep trying to move them out. We mass-email our customers to let them know about the sales. We cover as much ground as we can ourselves before doing radio and newspapers advertising.
“We can do much better deals than big box stores. We can use our indoor 3-D range and target range as sales incentives, and give away range memberships when they buy a bow from us. We have a tower inside and a full indoor range, so they know they’re getting a great deal when we throw that in.
“By January, we hope to get rolling again. Once bowhunters start going out in fall, we don’t see much of them for a while. We try getting them back in here with special shoots. We manage to stay pretty busy. The only days we close each year are Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Scott Andress, Pike County Archery, Pittsfield, Illinois
“We expect the same business we normally do the first part of the year. That means we’ll be riding the wave of new bows after they start arriving in November,” Andress said. “Bows always drive our business during the first quarter. Companies like Mathews start pushing before Thanksgiving, and others like BowTech wait until the ATA Show in January to introduce their top bow. You just never know which ones will catch fire. We sell all the accessories, too, and they can really kick butt, but we’re primarily a bow shop. That’s what drives us the furthest.
“To help things, we’ll drop some advertising. We’ll also send email blasts to about 1,700 customers. We’ve been converting everything to email because 1,700 pieces of regular mail is very expensive; more than $1,150 for a mailing like ours.
“Maybe the biggest thing we did the past year was change our name to Pike County Archery. Pike County is a well-known place and we wanted to capitalize on the name recognition. Along with emails, we’re building a bigger presence on Facebook and our Web site.
“We’ve been pushing our Pike County Archery T-shirts on our Web site. In fact, we sold 800 T-shirts last year, and we’re still selling them. We double our money on T-shirts. It’s great advertising for us because it displays our name and contact information. We give away a T-shirt with every bow sold. We also sell them separately for $15. I buy 150 at a time and we break even once we sell 50. We’ve given away 2,500 to 3,000 T-shirts the past seven years. People like to show where they’ve been.
“We work with a tattoo guy to design our T-shirts and choose the right colors. That’s always fun. We also started selling sweatshirts last year, and we expect they’ll keep doing well.”
Steve Pittman, owner, 12 Point Archery Shop, Covington, Georgia
“We expect great bow sales in January and February because everyone wants the latest models,” Pittman said. “We’ll also go the ATA Show in January to see what’s new and look for good deals our customers can’t resist. Early in the year it helps to get products no one has seen before, and take advantage of baker’s dozen deals. I’m always looking for specials on products with good margins.
“I also want to see what’s new and hot so I’m ready when someone comes in looking for something they read about or saw on TV. I don’t get stumped often by customers, because I work hard to stay on top of things. I’ve been running an archery-only shop for 30 years. It’s all I do, so I better know more about what’s out there than my customers do.
“Early in the year we also run indoor leagues, the outdoor 3-D range, JOAD on Saturdays, and our county’s 4H archery program. We try to run as many new leagues and kids’ events as possible. You have to offer a variety of programs to build a solid customer base. Good programs feed off each other. That’s how I keep new customers coming through my doors. Whether it’s target shooters, 3-D tournaments or the kids programs, you need to keep people shooting during winter.
“I try to change things up a little every year. The economy changes, new organizations pop up, and you work with people of all skill levels. I’m a Level 3 shooting instructor and the county’s archery instructor, so I’m always giving lessons. If you get kids hooked on archery, their parents often join them. The sooner they shoot well, the more they enjoy it. Last year we got 40 new kids shooting here, and we hope to get even more this year.”