Barnett Outdoors LLC can proudly boast to being the world’s leading manufacturer of crossbows but how does it keep the competition at bay? Stan Piecha investigates…
Being the biggest can be a tough position to defend in any trade but it is a situation that crossbow maker Barnett is confident of maintaining for many years to come following the restructuring of some aspects of its business, coupled with producing a breathtaking range of weapons.
The secret to why the Florida, USA-based concern is going from strength to strength lies in its innovative and brilliantly designed crossbows, aimed at ensuring there is a model to suit all budgets – without skimping on quality – in this ever-growing branch of the hunting and shooting industry.
It can also thank a number of hit Hollywood films and TV shows for an increase in demand. The movie Hunger Games, a futuristic film using bows and arrows, Disney’s Brave where Merida must rely on her archery skills to fight a beastly curse and American TV drama Revolution’s use of elaborate crossbows have all made more people, especially youngsters, aware that there is an alternative to guns and rifles.
Doing it for the kids
Jennifer Toepper, Barnett’s international sales manager, told GTW: “In today’s cyber world it is more important than ever to introduce our youth to a world of outdoor opportunities.
“This year has been unique because the media has placed a positive spotlight on shooting sports with the introduction of several blockbusting movies and TV shows.
“They have introduced archery and crossbows to parts of our culture that may never have been exposed to this type of sporting equipment, resulting in new customers eager to try their hand at them.
“There are not many rewards that I can think of greater than watching the glow of a child who shoots a crossbow or archery bow for the first time. These youngsters will then one day share the sport they enjoy with future generations, be it for target or hunting purposes. That’s why I have always strongly encouraged anyone who participates in any form of shooting sports to mentor a child.”
Barnett has been bringing joy and happiness to a global band of merry men – and women – for more than 60 years thanks to its remarkable history.
The company was, in fact, started in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England, in the 1960s by Bernard Barnett – father of the firm’s current director of development and research, David Barnett – before partly relocating to Odessa, Florida, in 1981.
In 2001 a deal was reached to buy the company from the remaining members of the Barnett family still based in England and the following year it had what every company dreams of – providing the funds and manufacturing capacity is in place – a massive surge in orders after Georgia legalised the crossbow for use in the entire archery season.
It resulted in demand increasing almost FIVEFOLD from the previous year and Barnett, with limits on financial access, struggling to fulfil them – a situation which will never reoccur since it became part of the Synergy Outdoors Group in 2007.
It now operates out of purpose-built premises in Tarpon Springs, where David continues to use his immense design skills to create new, must-have products.
Meanwhile, Mike Houllis, president of sales and operations director, who has been with the organisation since 1986, ensures everything runs like clockwork after a series of studies aimed at putting its strengths and weaknesses under the microscope.
Jennifer, one of the main cogs in helping bring Barnett onto the international stage, added: “Forward thinking, decades of manufacturing experience and a committed team make remaining a leading manufacturer possible. Competition is great but our philosophy is to never believe you are number one, for that just opens the door to complacency. Because we are never satisfied with what we have achieved it keep us hungry and continually striving for the next level.
“David’s eye for innovation, design and being able to think of new ideas way in advance of competitors, coupled with Mike’s ability to keep a close watch on manufacturing efficiency and trends with great insight, helps us to stay ahead. We exceeded one million units several years ago and our sales are a testament to our commitment to bring quality and affordable innovations to the market.”
Barnett has invested heavily in top machinery, including multiple high-speed vertical machining centres and CNC lathes producing 24 hours a day.
It employs 150 people throughout the year – rising to more than 225 during peak manufacturing periods – ensuring they are trained in several tasks so that they are able to turn their hand to a variety of jobs.
As each department has grown, so has their focus on quality control at every stage and, with all its crossbows, except two entry-level models, being totally made in the USA, customers are able to buy with confidence, knowing they are receiving a real value-for-money product.
It produces a total of 14 unique crossbow models, each with a distinct purpose.
The Ghost 400 is one of the fastest crossbows on the market. Because of the carbon technology used to give it a perfect balance, together with the quality machining and good looks, it is one of the most sought-after weapons.
The Predator, the first and fastest crossbow of its kind when released four years ago, remains popular. It has an adjustable rear stock to ensure it suits all shooters, a smooth 31/2lb trigger pull, a speed of 375 fps and Avi noise-dampening technology, all contributing to the model’s huge following.
The Buck Commander’s appeal lies in the fact that it is manoeuvrable, extremely light, quiet and has an aluminium flight rail.
Making a decision
Jennifer adds: “There are several deciding factors to consider when making a purchase – cost, size, speed, compatible accessories, use, optional features and weight. We make a crossbow to suit the needs of EVERYONE.
Many of our ground-breaking innovations – break-over self-cocking crossbows, folding crossbows, rope-cocking devices, carbon technology and shoot-through foot stirrups have been followed by other makers.”
The cosmetics of each model are also striking, with Barnett’s distinctive camouflage look continuing to be the most desired finish in the US, although carbon fibre and black patterning are starting to gain popularity.
An automated film dipping process, developed by David, has allowed it to offer customised camouflaged patterns at a reduced turnaround time without adding any huge cost or the need for extra staff.
Barnett’s main market continues to be the US but exports also form a significant and important part of the business, especially considering the company has a long history of selling abroad.
Listening to the feedback from clients, providing an excellent product and service, while meeting delivery times, is paying dividends in sales overseas.
It has a strong distribution base in several countries that share its business philosophies and is happy to support it with an aggressive marketing strategy.
Crossbows are growing in appeal because they afford the hunter the opportunity to come in closer contact with the game that they are targeting, adding to the overall experience. The average archery hunting shot is 25 yards for crossbows and archery bows, so they test skills of being undetected and using environmental knowledge together with a well-practised shot.
The use of crossbows in competitions is also on the up and ones made by Barnett have won several 3D and IBO tournaments. However, the biggest breakthrough would be if the move to have them included in the next summer Olympics being staged in Brazil in 2016 is given the green light.
That would see a global surge in demand – one that Barnett is totally geared up to meet these days.
Barnett Outdoors LLC
T: +1 727 234 4999
F: +1 727 942 6100