COVID-19 closures hurting outdoors business

by Steve Galea | April 2, 2020
online shopper holding a credit card over a laptop computer
An online shopper. (Photo by Jason Bain)

Outdoors retailers across Ontario are modifying their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — and many are hurting due to closures, a lack of online presence, and fewer walk-in customers.

Doors closed, hours reduced

Retailers such as MEC, SAIL, and Elwood Epps have closed their physical stores until the situation becomes more conducive to re-opening. In the meantime, each has directed customers to online or phone-in shopping opportunities.

Cabela’s and BPS remain open at press time and have modified their retail experience by cancelling or scaling back on in-store seminars for the time being and opening an hour earlier for senior citizens and high-risk individuals. They are also limiting the number of people in their stores to 25, practicing social distancing and offering free pickup and delivery.

Canadian Tire has reduced its retail store hours.

Small independent retailers have also had to close their shops to customers or change the way they do business.  Karen Perrott, Co-owner of Outdoors Plus in Haliburton, said, “We have definitely had reduced customer flow. It was particularly noticeable during the March break, which is typically a busy time for us.”

As a response to the pandemic, Perrott’s store has drastically reduced its hours and now permits only one customer in at a time.

“That allows us to control the flow so we can wipe down and disinfect counters and door handles and whatever else is required between customers,” she said.

Suppliers having difficulty

Perrott also said that her store’s suppliers seem to be having difficulty in keeping  items stocked and noted that wait time on some items, most notably ammunition, has increased significantly.

When asked about minnow sales, she said that this was one area where year to year sales have remained consistent — something she found surprising.

Scott Hall, co-owner of Grand River Outfitting and Fly Shop Inc., in Fergus, has had to close his store under provincial guidelines, and now is feeling the effect.

“We are not set up for online orders but are taking small orders over the phone,” he said.  He added that this was worrisome, especially since May, the shop’s busiest season, is fast approaching.

All stores we spoke to have enhanced cleaning and are complying with public health directions given by various levels of government

Click here for more COVID-19-related stories

For more outdoors news, click here

Sign up for our mailing list

indicates required
Email format


  1. Anthony Capuano wrote: It will remain to be seen whether or not we can hunt or fish at all in 2020, given the draconian orders to stay home. I can imagine crowded boat launches on the opener of walleye season will cause issues.
  2. Larry H Rayner wrote: If a ban on fishing & hunting is imposed do you think this will include "PRIVATE PROPERTIES?"
  3. Mindinnen wrote: The pandemic has had a considerable impact on the world economy and has walloped private entrepreneurs.
  4. Mindinnen wrote: Because of the quarantine measures, working hours had to be reduced, working days in the week, and there was a tremendous difficulty in delivering goods. Many people lost a lot of profits, and for some, it was a death blow to his business. My friend was one of those. When his business was on the verge of closing, I showed him, where he was offered advice and a convenient choice of the factoring company.