COVID-19: Outdoor gear dwindles well before summer starts in Saskatchewan

Click to play video: 'Outdoor gear dwindles well before summer starts in Saskatchewan'
Outdoor gear dwindles well before summer starts in Saskatchewan
WATCH: The increased demand for outdoor equipment paired with challenges in the supply chain has left retailer's shelves relatively empty – May 12, 2021

The walls of Eb’s Source for Adventure would normally be lined with heaps of kayaks, paddleboards and life jackets at this time of year.

Instead, supplies at the Saskatoon shop are running low.

“Historically during the summer if we got low on a product, we could order more from the suppliers,” store owner Kevin Robinson told Global News.

“This year, that’s not possible.”

Shipments of products from overseas have been delayed and manufacturers have struggled to source raw materials or deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, he said.

“There are lots of different production challenges… and then from the demand side of things, the consumer tends to be coming in three to four months earlier for their outdoor adventures,” he said.

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Customers started looking for canoes and camping gear as early as December, Robinson said, while others are already searching for cross-country ski gear for next winter.

Demand was similar last year, as people sought new forms of entertainment during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Things were pretty busy and so we ordered more — quite a bit more than we’ve traditionally had, but it’s still not even close to enough,” Robinson said.

Much of the shop’s incoming stock has already been spoken for, he added.

He anticipates manufacturers will be playing catchup well beyond the summer months.

“Regardless of when we all get vaccinated and what the COVID levels look like, the outdoor industry is in for supply challenges for probably two more years minimum,” he said.

Bike shops are in the same boat.

“Most of the day, we have to tell people, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have bikes to sell,’” Doug’s Spoke ‘N Sport owner Jason Woytowich said.

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The Saskatoon store normally kicks off the season with 1,000 bikes in its inventory. This year, it started with about 150, Woytowich said.

“Last summer when all of the bike shops were doing really well, the bike shops wound up depleting the 2021 stock,” he said. “Now, we’re just at the mercy of waiting for 2022 bikes to show up.”

Suppliers capped how many bikes businesses can order to ensure everyone had at least some inventory, he said. For Doug’s Spoke ‘N Sport, that inventory has been near depleted since April.

Shipments of roughly 15 bikes are expected to come in every few weeks over the course of the summer, Woytowich said.

While Woytowich said the supply shortage has been frustrating, he’s happy to see more people on two wheels.

“It’s just great to see people out riding bikes, putting smiles on faces,” he said. “That’s why we’re in this business.”

Click to play video: 'Sales for outdoor activity gear higher than last spring'
Sales for outdoor activity gear higher than last spring

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