‘It’s been crazy’: Outdoor sport stores facing low inventory, high demand amid COVID-19

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Sport stores dealing with inventory shortages, increased demand in southern Alberta
Whether you’re looking to hit the water in a kayak, or the trails on a bike, finding the sporting gear you’re looking for might be a bit trickier this year. Eloise Therien spoke with several Lethbridge stores to find out what’s still on the shelves. – Apr 27, 2021

Demand for outdoor sports equipment in Lethbridge is seeing quite the uptick this year, according to several gear and equipment shops in the city.

Some believe the increase in demand and subsequent lack of inventory is due in-part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kayaking, canoeing and mountain biking

Abby Pohl, sales associate and kayak instructor with High Level Canoes & Kayaks, said they were surprised with how early people started their shopping this year.

“It’s been crazy,” Pohl said. “People are planning ahead this year because they realize last year, stuff went quick.”

Pohl said the recreational kayaking season typically ramps up closer to June, and summer 2020 was quite busy for both rentals and purchases.

There is worry supply won’t be able to keep up with the demand heading into this season.

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“We got a bunch of stock in a few months ago, and we’re already down to limited numbers,” she explained. “We’re hoping to get more in, but due to all the delays because of COVID, it’s definitely a little bit scarce.”

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Down the road at Alpenland — a local ski and cycle shop — the situation is much the same.

Marketing and web operations manager Joe Molina said eager customers were clearing their shelves of entry-level mountain bikes when there was still snow on the ground.

“The ones that were diligent came in early, they got their bikes,” he said. “Anyone coming in now expecting availability to be normal is unfortunately getting disappointed.”

“We’d love to be able to provide everyone with what they’re looking for, (but) the availability just isn’t there right now.”

Molina said the store has a list of customers who have pre-paid for bikes, but all hope isn’t lost for those still looking; he suggests keeping an eye on their website as more inventory arrives.

“We are anticipating a lot more bikes to show up, and we actually have continued to see shipments come in every week, every two weeks.”

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Skateboards, small gear, team sports

If you don’t want to wait for a set of wheels, considering a skateboard or longboard might be more achievable than a bike.

Brian Smith, co-owner of Boarderline, said their inventory is looking pretty stable for the time being.

“I think they’ve got a good hold on it this year. But yeah, last year was impossible to get skateboards or wheels or trucks or anything,” he said.

A long-time skater himself, Smith is encouraged to see the uptick in interest, and expects sales to be steady for the duration of the spring and summer months.

“There’s been a massive influx of young kids getting into it,” Smith explained. “(There’s) a huge progression of girl skateboarders in town which has been awesome to see.”

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JD Clark, assistant manager of Doug’s Sports, said while the store is doing better than this time last year, things are still tough with a layer of uncertainty with team sports.

“We’re used to just being so busy in March, April, and May especially,” he said. “But now we’re probably an eighth of what we usually do.”

Despite the decrease in sales, Clark is hopeful things will pick up as time goes on.

“Summer is going to be busier, I think,” he said. “As the weather gets nicer, people want to be outside more, and it’ll generate more interest in that.”

Clark said some of their more popular items are currently baseball and soccer equipment.

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