Thanks to Hollywood, bow maker hits bull's-eye in sales

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By VINCE HORIUCHI

Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City-based bow maker Hoyt Archery has been having tremendous success this year, thanks to an unlikely spokeswoman and ambassador: a spry 16-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who competed in "The Hunger Games."

Popularity in the ancient sport of archery has exploded because of that blockbuster movie and other hit films including "The Avengers," with its arrow-slinging hero Hawkeye, and Pixar's animated tale, "Brave," about a Scottish girl who is a prized archer. Adding to the attention was the first U.S. broadcast of an Olympics archery competition, at the 2012 London Games.

As a result, times are good at Hoyt.

"We're going to have the biggest year ever in the history of (the company) from a financial standpoint," said Mike Luper, vice president of sales and marketing.

Luper would not reveal actual figures because Hoyt is privately held. He said sales of its bows specifically for youth have increased about 200 percent this year, thanks to young fans who have seen the movies or read the Hunger Games books. That rise has spilled over to the adult bows, too.

"It's been phenomenal," he said. "Our youth-bow categories are off the charts in terms of sales."

More broadly, adds Denise Parker, the Olympic archer from Utah who at 14 won a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Games and today is CEO of USA Archery: "It has definitely been a summer to remember for the archery world. It's been crazy. Everyone has all of a sudden wanted to shoot archery."

The rise in popularity has been reflected "not only in the domestic market but in the international market, too," said Douglas Denton, a Hoyt product engineer who designs the bows. "It truly is global."

Hoyt designs and produces two types of archery bows: compound models with a series of wheels and pulleys, used by hunters and youths; and and "recurve" models that are named for the curved "limbs" extending from the center and that are used by Olympians.

There are more than 40 different bow manufacturers worldwide, Luper said, noting that every gold medalists in individual archery at this summer's London Games used a Hoyt bow.

"Hoyt has led for many years and is right at the top for the quality of its bows," said former Olympian Parker. "They're almost in a class by themselves."

Hollywood has not only helped inspire new Hoyt customers, it also has benefitted from the company's designs. The producers of "The Avengers" used Hoyt's Buffalo recurve bow for the movie's superhero character Hawkeye (played by Jeremy Renner). The makers of the upcoming "Hunger Games" sequel, "Catching Fire," also just chose Hoyt's Buffalo model for the Katniss Everdeen character (played by Jennifer Lawrence). Years ago, a Hoyt compound bow was used by Sylvester Stallone's iconic action character, John Rambo, in "Rambo: First Blood II." That model, no longer available, was called "The Rambo."

With the release of more "Hunger Games" sequels and the premiere of this fall's CW television show "Arrow," an adaptation of the Green Arrow comic, the people behind Hoyt hope the nation's fascination with archery continues to fly straight and true.

"We're just on the front edge of it," Luper said of the trend. "Only time will tell. The only hope is that there is some longevity to it."

(Contact Vince Horiuchi at vince@sltrib.com.)

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