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