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Starting Archery Shop

1653 Views 43 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  shootstraight
I have completed my paperwork my LLC and would like opinions on whether to start from my house/shop or right into a commercial building. I am planning this as a process so do not need to make quick decisions.
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· Just thwackin' it.
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That's a tough one. I guess it depends on your market. If you go commercial, you're going to need a lot of money up front... can you turn that around in a decent amount of time? At least out of a home-based shop, whether it's your garage or a storage building or what not, you are saving up-front money.

Archery is tough and very seasonal, especially in Texas. My shop (I'm the dept. manager, not the owner) barely clears costs to cover our inventory and payroll... many times, especially in the "off season", our store's indoor gun range and firearms sales carry us. We (archery dept) really are there as an extra commodity to get butts in the door. COVID has made it even more difficult on us, however, the firearms side of things is skyrocketing at an unprecedented rate.

In a different climate, where archery is more common place, you can do better. Take Arizona for example, archery is pushed quite a bit because you can buy over-the-counter tags on most large game, and there's a good bit of 3D and other archery events outside of hunting season. Texas just doesn't have that climate.

Just my $0.02. I don't see your area, client base, competitors, and what you are working with (inventory, payroll, etc). But I would suggest having something else as a plan B to help carry your shop when it's slow, if you have a shop that has employees other than yourself.
 

· Just thwackin' it.
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If you are going to be a one-man operation, you can probably make do for a while without any kind of real range setup. However, our indoor range, despite only being 25 yards, is very key to our operations. The majority of our events revolve around our range. We will do 3D outdoors occasionally and do novelty shoots indoors. Having something fun or with a theme helps drive it. We have quite a following of NFAA indoor shooters, and we're hopefully picking up the local JOAD club soon to help boost more butts in the door. Of course all of this is for a shop with multiple employees... it's nearly impossible to do alone, you'd wear yourself out.

I highly, highly suggest you do some research on targets if you're doing a solid range wall indoor or outdoor. I can make some recommendations, especially on what NOT to use... my current range wall looks like garbage and those targets are not even a year old.
 

· Banned
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No offense intended...but my first thought is, if you don’t have plans in place that answers your own questions, you’d better think hard about what you’re doing.

You need to KNOW what your business plan is, from start to finish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Both reenforce what I was noticing. Where I am located an indoor range would be extremely beneficial, even more so if I can set up a 20m indoor range due to the Texas heat. Your opinion on number of shooting lanes for league, JOAD, NFAA, etc.?
 

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Well.if you plan on selling new bows,have a ton of cash ready to shell out,just to be able to carry them...and then more cash to buy the bows.
As for where to start it at...look into your liability insurance for home based businesses, especially one dealing with what insurance calls weapons...premiums may be higher than u want,and u don't want to risk losing u our home if someone gets hurt there.
A small commercial building may be the ticket.
Just start small.
I own a pizza shop.and a butcher shop,and started small and never plan to expand more than I can handle.
There are gonna be tons of people tell u there is no money made in a bow shop.
That's BS...if there wasn't then there wouldn't be shops...period.
 

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Friend of mine bought a turnkey business (not archer) a few years back. Customer base existing and all tool, materials, suppliers, etc in place. Long story short, she lasted a little over 5 years before selling due to the unforeseen time spent taking care of all the issues that popped up almost daily and an income that didn’t meet expectations. Books weren’t kept right, so turns out the business wasn’t doing as well as was depicted by the prior owner. Competition from online shops and brick and mortar made it hard for her to make a profit. She employed family to keep costs down and because she needed additional hands. That led to the shop being overrun by toddler nieces and nephews and adding to the stress. It all became too much for too little return. Your mileage may vary but be absolutely sure you have rainy day $$$ and a solid, quick-escape plan B.
 

· Vendor
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I'm generally a pretty positive individual so it's hard for me to say this. Over 30 years in dealing with archery shops, I have seen way more failures than success stories. Generally the owners are guys who love to bow hunt, love to shoot tournaments, work on bows or a combination of all. Few have any background in business, purchasing, management, marketing and sales.
We have been into over 2,000 pro shops in the past 30 years and can honestly say I have only met a handful of owners who had professional sales training. If one has no professional sales and marketing experience, their chances of success are greatly diminished.
Of the 2,000 customers that we have done business with in the past 30 years less than 400 are still in business. There is always new ones popping up to replace them but they generally don't make it past the first 3 years.
I really don't want to wizz on your parade but please make sure all your ducks are in a row before jumping in head first. It could be very costly.:secret:
 

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I have completed my paperwork my LLC and would like opinions on whether to start from my house/shop or right into a commercial building. I am planning this as a process so do not need to make quick decisions.
Where in Texas? I lived in Lubbock and SA. Neither one has a large archery presence. I’m guessing the low amount of public land plays a part. It’s a pay to play state for hunting. Most who own land shoot in their back yard or at the lease just before they hunt. Who’s your target customer base? Can you attract online buyers? I can order almost anything online and have it in 3-5 days max. That’s the growing trend for many of us.
 

· Just thwackin' it.
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Here's some random hints and advice to get other things in place.

When it comes down to stocking inventory, be sure to stock what moves, not necessarily what you like best. It may take some time to figure this out because each area is different. Depending on size, I probably wouldn't stock more than 2 bow mfg lines starting out, to include at least one big name line: Hoyt, Mathews, PSE, Bowtech or Elite as they seem to be on the podiums at tournaments the most. I think I can honestly say Mathews and PSE are the safe ones on the list when it comes to moving product due to popularity (Mathews) and a vast, multi-budget friendly catalog (PSE). I'm not a Mathews dealer, but I get a ton of customers that ask... we've tried in the past and we would like to pick them up, but there's already two near-by dealers and honestly I need about 2 less bow mfg's on our wall as it is. PSE is by far our hot seller... I may be a little biased here, but the numbers don't lie. Same goes with sights, rests, releases, and arrows... try to stick to at least one well known big name. There are customers that know jack about archery and come in and want to know what YOU like, but it's not as many as customers who are brand loyal, at least that's how it rolls according to my experience.

While dealing directly with mfgs on products is usually cheaper, you will want a distributor account too. Look into Kinsey's (kinseysinc.com) and/or Lancaster. Lancaster has a better selection, but sometimes Kinsey's is cheaper on the same product, or has abilities to order different quantities... for example I have a guy who is fletching his own arrows and specifically wants 36pk Bohning Heat vanes, I had to order them from Kinsey's because they are U/A from Lancaster, and while I am a Bohning dealer and could have went directly to them and even saved a little cost, they usually take a little longer on their deliveries. Distributors give you options on ordering product.

With or without a range, you may want to look into having a monthly or annual membership for your store. Obviously having a place to shoot is a huge incentive for this. Our members just check in and we hand them a target and they go shoot, as they pay monthly rates. Our monthly membership fee is slightly cheaper than if a person came in to shoot twice a month... looking back, I would actually make it a little more (closer to 3 times a month), but this was already established prior to me becoming the department manager, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Our members also receive discounts on products as well as invitations to members-only events (usually we shut down the store, cater food for the members, and offer Black Friday-level prices and heavy discounts on products for them ...my store has close to 1000 members both firearms and archery, so this probably isn't ideal for your size initially).

Advertise/market your store as it being beneficial to buying products from you rather than buying them online and bringing them in to be setup. Be sure to have labor charges setup appropriately between the two. In my shop, if you buy it from us, we set it up for no additional charge (setup bows, install sights, rests, cut arrows, etc.) and we definitely make sure to charge labor for stuff people buy online and bring in, regardless if they are regulars or have a membership. But you also want to be fair in pricing as to not drive customers to go order online and to learn how to work on their own equipment... while I do encourage it on here, it does kill opportunities to get butts in the door.

Speaking of setting up equipment, if you have more than one employee, you may want to set a standard on how you do the little things: everyone ties a d-loop the same, a peep the same, a drop away rest cord the same, etc. You may want to research pros and cons of different methods. Put together a training guide if necessary (I'm working on this myself soon). Example: we actually have two methods of tying in a peep: one is more permanent, the other is for kids/teenagers that are growing and will need adjustments later, so we tie the knots to where they can be slid/moved. Of course, the new no-tie peeps from Fletcher (tube peep) and Sawtooth/Bohning have been helpful for the kids/teenagers, so that's something to look into as well.

Have something that is unique to your shop. Have a 300 spot target wall of fame so your customers have something to strive for, even if it's just bragging rights, maybe they get their photo on Facebook and they get a small prize. Do custom wrist slings out of paracord. Offer shooter jerseys for your loyal customers that want to rep your shop when they go shoot competitively or semi-competitively. Maybe setup a "staff shooter" program where they get a little deeper discount than the members, but they are under contract to rep your store at so many events. Just throwing some ideas at you. And if you don't do social media, get ready to... it helps!

The JOAD/NFAA thing can be a little tricky to get into. If you have an indoor range that's at least 20 yards long and I'd say about 8 lanes wide, you can look into the Texas Field Archery Association (https://texasfieldarchery.org/) and see about becoming a location for the Shoot Your Way Across Texas tournaments. Of course all that stuff is on hold at the moment due to COVID. Also on your range setup, have a "comfy" zone where people can observe and watch the shooters. Many times you will have families and spouses come in and not all of them shoot bows, but they want to watch. A snack or drink machine wouldn't be a bad idea on a smaller scale range (we have a full cafe, but again, larger operation).

Classes, classes, classes! Classes get butts in the door, and are high profit margin items. Do classes for beginners, intermediate, advanced, whatever levels you can provide. Consider contracting an experienced, certified instructor if you are unavailable to do these. Do group or individual, gotta suit it to your instructor capacity. Don't forget to offer members discounts in this area too.

I've slowly started to scale inventory down in the past few months by dropping a few product lines and mfgs that are just stale, not moving, or are even difficult to deal with from a customer service perspective. If you have any specific questions on pros and cons, especially on brand lineups and what works and what doesn't, just send me a private message, because you really don't want dealer discussions out in the open on here.
 

· Back Yard Champion
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I have completed my paperwork my LLC and would like opinions on whether to start from my house/shop or right into a commercial building. I am planning this as a process so do not need to make quick decisions.
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You haven't gave what you have or intend to have. Most have almost all the tools and equipment needed to start up. I do and I won't open a shop. I help my friends and kids labor free. Live in the country and have 2 walk up target ranges 35 yards and 100 yards.
I've lived in the same county all my life and watched one archery shop after another close within 5 years - 6 that I know of personally.
I worked at this one archery shop 5 years and the doors closed. The owner owned the building and property free and clear. The shop had everything, 16 lane Indoor range, 3D targets, and ran leagues and games. Biggie; The shop couldn't get a major bow company because the shop was too close to the next shop that had a major bow company. I ended up buying out the owner.
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Only thing I can offer you is Good Luck........
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Where in Texas? I lived in Lubbock and SA. Neither one has a large archery presence. I’m guessing the low amount of public land plays a part. It’s a pay to play state for hunting. Most who own land shoot in their back yard or at the lease just before they hunt. Who’s your target customer base? Can you attract online buyers? I can order almost anything online and have it in 3-5 days max. That’s the growing trend for many of us.
This 100%.
I’m in Texas and shoot on my land. Order most everything online too. Nearest outdoor shop in an hour away.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
This is exactly the info/advice I am looking for. I live near Thorndale which is about 1/2 way between College Station and Georgetown. Nearest bow shop is about an hour away. I was not planning on a big shop for a couple reasons, some of which are covered above including online retailers. My goal is not to make a living with this as I will have 2 retirements to live off. My main goal is to provide a service where personal service, honesty and reputation is key. The indoor range idea came up in several conversations so I am researching the feasibility between cost and cost recovery/profit. I am visiting as many shops as I can and at the end of the day it very well could be that I may end up with a small shop, help people out similar to SonnyThomas. Thank you everyone for your input, keep it coming.
 

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The shop/range in Georgetown doesn’t look too bad, but I was only there for SYWAT. I don’t know what College Station has, but they have a college team and host tournaments. Best shop I’ve seen in the area Is Leading Edge Archery in Boerne. You might want to visit this shop for ideas.
 

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I too have considered this. I spoke with a good friend that is a business owner with a lot of experience (Retired the first time in his early 30s) He told me that with any new start up business the best you can hope for is to break even for the first year, and to expect to lose money for at least 6 months. In his opinion this is why most new businesses fail. Everyone expect to get rich right away. His advice to me was to start slow and build a good reputation as being a good person to deal with, treat the guy buying a $2 sticker the same as the guy dropping 2 grand on a full set up. His motto is "Its easier to get a million people to hand me a dollar than it is for me to get 1 person to hand me a million dollars".

Things I have thought about is be prepared to work on bows bought online, bows that are out dated , cross bows, etc. Everyone is in a different place in their life and that 1994 Bear might be the best they could afford.

I also spoke the former owner of our local shop, he was open for over 20 years before he decided to close up and retire. He said crossbows will keep the lights on because they require so much maintenance, Bank your money from tax time, early bow season and Christmas because the rest of the year gets a bit slim.
 

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I genuinely hope you have a good start up and long term success. I also genuinely hope you’re in my local East Texas area lol. To put it nicely, my “local” shop is the reason I want to buy all my own gear and start working on my bow myself....
 
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