Year of the staycation is a boon for outdoor equipment industry

Ban on non-essential travel in B.C. fires up sales of bikes, camping and hunting gear

Sporting Life bike technician Brayden Rastad and assistant manager Rebecca Brownridge say they are seeing demand for bikes and bike services increase as people seek alternative activities during the pandemic | submitted

Bikes are flying off the racks across Metro Vancouver, according to Sporting Life assistant manager Rebecca Brownridge.

“The bike industry is booming to say the least,” said Brownridge from her Burnaby store.

If you work in the recreational activity sector these days, it’s likely you’re just as busy as ever, if not busier, according to the retailers Business in Vancouver spoke to following the reopening of outdoor spaces and provincial camp sites last week.

Bikes, recreation equipment, camping supplies, hunting gear and outdoor clothing are all items British Columbians seem to be eyeing with their spare dollars, as indoor activities will be mostly restricted and gatherings are banned this summer to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

People have been emotionally and physically pent up, and there is perhaps no better example of British Columbians yearning to be outdoors than the failure of the BC Parks campsite reservation system to keep up with demand on its first day of bookings since the March closure. Environment Minister George Heyman reported over 50,000 campsite reservations were made Monday. He even apologized for the online system’s failure.

When B.C. went into Phase 2 of its pandemic plan, public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said outdoor activities close to home and within a very small circle or “bubble” of family or friends are ideal.

“Less travel right now is what we are asking of everyone,” Henry said May 14. “There are so many activities and places for us to safely enjoy, close to home. Rain or shine, we can get outside and enjoy some of the best of B.C. right in our backyards.”

Brownridge said not only are her bike sales booming, but other bike shops are also calling her store looking for parts they’ve run out of. Likewise, stock is dwindling, and suppliers are scrambling to keep up with demand.

“People who don’t own bikes but may have rented in the past are now committed to purchasing bikes,” she said. “The hybrid bike category is just exploding right now.”

Brownridge added that customers are also willing to stretch their wallets by investing in a better-quality product and accessories.

“People are willing to invest, and I think that’s where our retail sales staff have done a great job. People aren’t afraid to buy if they’re going to get the use out of it.”

She added that families and millennials are the big buyers.

“The gyms are closed, so they’re taking up that alternative. It’s a great social-distance activity. You feel safe but you’re outside, and you can be with friends who may not be in your immediate household but you can still maintain that distancing factor.”

At Camouflage International Military Surplus and Supplies in Downtown Vancouver, manager Basheer Khudayar reported a rise in sales for BB guns, air soft pistols, camping equipment and knives.

“We’ve been open through the pandemic and been doing well,” he said.

The company is also selling stylized and medical grade masks. Bandanas are another item that’s been a hot seller.

At Coast Outdoors in North Vancouver, sales of its line of water recreation equipment are brisk, according to staff. People are buying kayaks and paddleboards and the accessories to go along with them. The company also services equipment.

At nearby Deep Cove Kayak, lessons and rentals are back with the reopening, as the company touts Indian Arm as a local oasis. However, to follow provincial rules for public health, the rentals are limited, and bookings are staggered with online reservations requested; lessons also comply with physical distancing requirements. •