"If you're a gun dealer, there's definitely money in archery for you," said Julio Claps, owner of Camillus Gun & Bait outside Syracuse, N.Y.
Julio knows what he's talking about. He has been working in a retail gun and archery shop for 20 years.
"Archery equipment has better profit margins and you have more return customers for service all the time," said Julio. "They come in for bowstrings, arrows--there are lots of accessories. If it's not an arrow rest, it's a sight, and if it's not a sight, it's a release. There's always something new.
Julio's father, Julius Claps, started Camillus Gun & Bait as a gun shop and hobby 20 years ago. When Julio graduated from school, he found he was working full time in what started as a part-time business. With that, the shop was off and running. In 1988, he and his father added archery to the shop.
"The archery part of the business started taking off, and now it's 90 percent of what we do," Julio said. "We moved, and put an addition on the building so we could have indoor shooting lanes. We've gone from nothing to everything, and we've done it without taking out any loans."
For the past five years or so, as Julius has moved toward retirement, Julio has taken over management of the shop.
Product And Service Drive Archery Margins
Part of what has made archery such a big part of the shop, Julio said, is the profit margins archery equipment provides.
"Bows provide an easy 20 percent margin," he said. "That's on both compounds and recurves."
Most archery accessories provide margins between 50 and 75 percent. On a few items, Julio said, he doubles his money.
Then, there are service profits. On basic bow tune-ups, Julio makes $25, plus, the cost of whatever the bow needs: a new string, string silencers, and other accessories the customer wants added.
"Customers should come in every year to have a bow tune-up," Julio said. "It's just like with a car. Instead of putting in new spark plugs, you're putting a new string on the bow."
According to Julio, if you can sell the bow, you can sell the service, "because archery is all about service."
"You can get a customer in your store and keep him as a customer just through your service," Julio said. "Once you do that, he won't go to the chain stores, because they can't even set up a bow."
Arrows also provide a nice profit. Julio said the average shooter goes through at least two dozen arrows a year. Arrows are expensive, so those two dozen arrows represent substantial repeat business.
"Depending on whether the customer buys carbon or aluminum, the customer pays anywhere from $60 to $100 for a dozen arrows," Julio said. "On carbon arrows, I'm making about 50 percent. On the others, it's 20 to 30 percent."
And there's additional profit in arrows, beyond the initial sale.
"A customer buys a set of arrows, shoots them and tears the vanes," Julio said. "Then, he brings them in to be re-fletched."
To put new fletching and a new nock on an arrow runs the customer about $2.50, Julio said. Customers can only re-fletch a couple of times before the arrows are bent, broken or are otherwise unshootable. Then, they buy another dozen.
"Plus, archery is becoming more year 'round than it used to be," Julio said. "If you're in the south where customers can shoot 3-D all year, customers are going to bum up arrows. Once you miss a target, 90 percent of the time the arrow is no good, so 3-D shooters need a lot more arrows."
Shooting For Additional Profit
For increased profit, add a couple of archery shooting lanes. The retail section of Camillus Gun & Bait covers about 2,000 square feet. For a number of years, an additional section of the store was devoted to eight shooting lanes. With a recent renovation, there are now 10 lanes. If you have room, Julio advises, putting in a 3-D range.
"I get $5 an hour for a customer to shoot," Julio said. "And we have leagues all winter."
One advantage to having an archery range instead of a gun range is there were no legal issues involved in building the range.
"The only thing we needed was liability insurance and a solid back wall," Julio said. "In the summertime, we have about 12 guys who shoot for the store, and we go to all the IBO (International Bowhunting Organization) shoots in the area. Last year, one of my buddies who shoots for me won the New York State Indoor Championship. We also have two, IBO World Champion shooters who shoot out of the store, as well."
For any gun dealer who is interested in getting into archery, the first step is education, Julio said.
"You need to know the ins and outs of properly setting up a bow," he said. "The big things I find are bows aren't properly tuned, the customer is not shooting the right arrows, or whoever set up the bow measured the customer's draw length improperly."
According to Julio, every company's bow is a little bit different, and you need to understand those differences.
"But most companies have good technical support, and if you call them they'll help you," Julio said.
While the profit margins sound attractive, are you hesitating to add archery to your shop because of the time required for getting to know all Julio knows? If so, then hire someone who is really good at archery.
"If you can find I someone who knows, his stuff, what he's going to bring in will more than cover what you're going to pay him," he said.
Pride In Work
Yes, Julio knows archery, but he believes his success comes from treating everyone who comes in the door more as a friend than as a customer.
"That way they feel comfortable," he said. "It doesn't matter whether they bought their equipment from me, or from someone else. I give them 100 percent of my attention and quality of work."
The big box stores don't have that level of commitment to service, Julio said.
"I have a Dick's Sporting Goods close by and they don't affect me one bit, because of the service I give," Julio said. "I treat everyone's bow like it's mine, and I don't shortchange anyone. I have pride in my work, and it shows. My work speaks for itself."
Boyles, Carolee Anita. "Make the most of archery in your gun shop. (Outdoor Marketplace)." Shooting Industry 48.6 (2003): 16+. General OneFile. Web. 21 Dec. 2009.
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