By Patrick Meitin
The approach of a New Year can prove simultaneously exciting and stressful for an archery shop owner or larger store manager. There is excitement in the air as you look forward to seeing what the brilliant minds of the archery and outdoor industry have devised in way of innovation. You get to replace old stock with new products and feature brand-new bow models to pull in annual upgrade-customers. You can also implement fresh business goals. But stress also arrives from these same elements. There is old stock to move out of the store, big order decisions to be made, inventory to take and taxes to pay, perhaps travel to industry or dealer shows to endure, and major game plans to lay down to assure a smooth road into the next retail year. Success depends on it, but with the right attitude and planning you can enter a new season on top.
Inventory & Accounting
One of the biggest headaches of any new season is taking inventory and feeding the proper information to accountants. This is crucial not only to making decisions on future stock, but determining how much taxes you might have to pay. Even with a computerized system, physical inventory is a must, as theft, computer glitches resulting from improper input, stealing parts to remedy a customer’s rush-season equipment breakdown and other such elements can cause discrepancies between actual inventory and computer numbers. I witnessed this on a nearly monthly basis while working retail, the computer insisting we had X number of widgets on hand when I could locate only Y.
The real dilemma during inventory is how to approach it and when to schedule the time. The store where I once worked conducted inventory in a 14-16-hour period, much of that time while the store remained open. This left a skeleton crew on the floor while a certain number of employees conducted inventory, causing confusion as customers purchased product already counted. Closing the store for inventory, or pulling an all-nighter with an efficient crew, seems to make more sense.
We also rented hand scanners to create compiled inventory lists that were then compared to inventory in the computer system. There were enough discrepancies that the need for physical recounts remained, so in the end it would have been easier to simply count every item by hand from the beginning. This also gives you the opportunity to straighten up your shop, get everything in its proper place and discard ancient stock or odds-and-ends clutter that has been laying around for months or years.
Moving Old Stock
No matter the retail situation there is always going to be a certain amount of stock that simply doesn’t move. This often serves as an ordering lesson, but sometimes product that is otherwise sound doesn’t catch on due to it being too far ahead of its time or not effectively advertised. Ideally the object is to move this product and free up space for new stock without taking a bath on it. Internet auctions such as eBay are a simple solution, though eBay does require time. If you have a low-level employee you can assign this task to, all the better. Discount tables are also a standard way to rid a store of unwanted inventory, staring at, say, 50 percent off, and working upward as time dictates.
In my experience there comes a time when you must cut your losses and just rid your store of unwanted merchandise once and for all. I recall a discount table of fishing lures, for instance. We inventoried and marked those items down so many times we had more invested in labor than the product was worth, but corporate wouldn’t allow us to price it to sell or simply give it away. We could have saved money tossing it all in the trash. Sometimes you’ll save money in the long run by losing it in the short term. By donating it to local archery clubs for raffles, state conservation departments for kids’ programs and similar causes, you at least receive a tax write-off on that lost merchandise.
The Show Circuit & Orders
Attending archery shows is always a worthwhile investment in resources, large among them the annual ATA Show, this year held in Louisville, Kentucky. This provides a better oversight of what the year has in store (as many companies won’t unveil new product until this big event), and perhaps more importantly as a small-shop owner, it makes you privy to 10-20 percent-off, show-order specials. These are discounts that save you money during the remainder of the year. Others include dealer shows such as Kinsey’s, as an example, or buying-group meetings/shows such as NABA or ARRO (an arrow-buying group), where discounts of up to 40 percent are sometimes available to attendees.
Many of these show specials involve scheduled shipping, but these orders can often be set up on a “call-before-ship” basis, allowing you to cancel scheduled orders if you already have enough of that product on hand at that time.
Inventory should also have given you better insight into what your customers want and what products have proved to be duds. While drop-ship distributors have become a way of life, don’t discount buying groups (which seem to have lost a bit of edge in recent years, but can still be useful). Don’t allow yourself to fall into a rut. Keep looking for that better deal.
Reorganize Your Work Area
The New Year and its temporary downturn in business in many regions can also prove a great opportunity to reorganize your work area or shuffle your shop layout for added efficiency. The busy season preceding hunting seasons and the holiday buying frenzy can leave your pro shop in complete disarray. Maybe it’s also time to come up with a better system.
One of the slickest work areas I’ve witnessed to date included sturdy, 4-foot metal cabinets holding heavy-duty steel drawers and thick laminated hardwood tops. The stout wood tops allowed mounting bow presses, vices and such and provided a quality work surface, the lower drawers filled with plastic Plano slotted cases holding various vane styles and colors, different-weight field tips, specific brand inserts and nocks and common replacement parts and hardware. All drawers were clearly labeled. It made a very nice-looking and efficient work area that was much easier to keep in order even during the busiest times.
A Better Plan?
The New Year is also the time to reassess your business approach, determine what is working and what is not, and make adjustments accordingly. Simply eliminating a single weak link and replacing it with something stronger is ground gained. This might apply to your buying, merchandising or employee schedules. Give your business a hard look, critically and with an open mind, and you can likely discover possible improvements.
One of the easiest ways to get on the right path is to seek the services of a professional consultant. For example, Noble Sinclair and team, of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s, Archery Shoppe (505-878-9768)—one of the most successful archery businesses in the country, evidenced by feats such as becoming one of the largest Hoyt dealers in the entire West—charges $300 a day per person plus expenses, coming into your shop, analyzing specific areas of your business (product ordering, pro-shop layout, employee situation, as examples) and advising you on how to make your shop operate more smoothly to save money and make more money.
Sometimes a fresh perspective is all that’s needed to break through a current plateau, out-compete your competition or get you out of that business slump. It can prove money well spent.