How to Open a Bowling Pro Shop

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Bowling pro shops feature a good selection of bowling balls and other gear.
Bowling pro shops feature a good selection of bowling balls and other gear. (Image: The Bowling image by Nikolay Kapustin from Fotolia.com)

Bowling has become increasingly popular within the past few years. According to the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America, almost 70 million bowlers participated in the sport in 2009. In addition to the renewed interest in bowling, many bowling alleys have received a facelift as well. Now often called family entertainment centers, the facilities offer expanded lounges and more food and beverage choices. More entertainment options for non-bowlers add to facilities’ family appeal.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Business plan
  • Capital
  • Sales tax number

Choose your pro shop business structure. Meet with a Certified Public Accountant experienced with hybrid businesses (e.g. companies that offer a mix of products and services). Ask her to recommend the best business structure for your bowling pro shop: a sole proprietorship; a limited liability company (LLC); or a conventional corporation. Consult with a commercial insurance agent with experience similar to your accountant's. Visit your city or county clerk’s office for your business license. Finally, contact your state’s Department of Revenue to obtain a sales tax number.

Select a convenient location. First, decide whether you want to locate the pro shop in a bowling center or in a stand-alone building. If you choose the first option, you’re limited to the existing bowling center locations. However, you will have a “captive” audience for your pro shop products. In choosing the stand-alone option, look for a location near a bowling center without a pro shop. Make it convenient for bowlers to drop by your shop before or after their bowling sessions. Install a front display window to showcase colorful bowling balls, bags, and gear.

Examine your regional bowling market. Visit local bowling centers, and gather information on their leagues, classes, and tournaments. Taken together, this data will provide an anecdotal picture of the market’s activity. The information may also help you in making product choices. For example, a large number of women bowlers may convince you to order some specially made bowling shirts in colors that ladies prefer.

Identify your competition. You have three types of competitors: pro shops in bowling centers, stand-alone pro shops, and online pro shops. First, visit regional pro shops to learn about their products. Take note of the shop’s appearance, depth of the product lines, and level of customer service. Look for an under-served market with some potential. Browse an online pro shop directory for information about online businesses. This directory also links to websites of brick-and-mortar pro shops.

Order your balls, shoes, and gear. Use your bowling market information to place a wholesale product order. Choose bowling balls for different hand sizes and budgets, and shoes for men, women, and youth bowlers. Use volume discounts for towels and other generic items. Bring in a few “test’ items you haven’t seen anywhere else. Finally, arrange a special order option to accommodate customers’ specific needs.

Hire bowling-friendly staff. Find employees who are avid bowlers, and they will communicate their enthusiasm to your customers. Ensure that staff is technically savvy so customers can receive the best advice on ball choice, grip, and technique. Finally, work with a local bowling professional to develop a series of skills classes.

Hold a Grand Opening Bowling Benefit. Partner with a local bowling center to conduct a charity bowling tournament. Structure the entry fee to include a snazzy bowling shirt and a towel imprinted with your shop’s name. Offer equipment prizes to entrants who raise the most money. Advertise this charity tournament in the sports pages of local newspapers, and distribute flyers to bowling centers throughout your region.

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