Manitoba

Iconic Winnipeg-based camping goods supplier survives, and thrives, during COVID-19

Coghlan's, a Winnipeg-based, family-owned camping supplies company that has been in business for 61 years, is one of the rare businesses that has actually seen a boost in sales because of COVID-19. 

Coghlan's started 61 years ago by selling camp stove toasters, now ships hundreds of products around the world

Jeff Stevens, president of Coghlan's Outdoor Accessories, says the rise in popularity of camping during the COVID-19 pandemic has been good for business (Pat Kaniuga/CBC)

You may not know the name Coghlan's, but if you've been camping, there's a very good chance you own a bunch of the camping accessory company's stuff, and would recognize the familiar green packaging, with its bright yellow lettering, in a heartbeat. 

The Winnipeg-based, family-owned company has been in business for 61 years, and it's one of the rare businesses that has actually seen a boost in sales because of COVID-19. 

"We're in a massive warehouse and a lot of the shelves are just completely empty," said Jeff Stevens, president of Coghlan's Outdoor Accessories.

Though the company did see issues with its supply chain and a decrease in sales in March and April due to the pandemic, Stevens said their products have been flying off shelves since camping in the time of COVID has taken off. 

"I would say we're very fortunate and very grateful that we're an industry that has not been as impacted as a lot of businesses are," he said. 

"We're in the middle of summer and our warehouse is not as full as it usually would be at this time."

The family business was started by Stevens's grandfather, Norm Coghlan, who launched it by selling camp stove toasters.

At the time, the product was being phased out in favour of the electric toaster, but it still made great toast and could be used for camping.

Norm bought up a case of them, which sold out fairly quickly, and ended up having to make his own in Winnipeg, Stevens said. 

The Winnipeg-based company Coghlan's produces close to 600 different camping accessories, most under $10, and ships to between 20 to 25 countries around the world. (Coghlans.com)

Norm also found that people also wanted to pick up other camping equipment while they were buying their toasters — and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Coghlan's Outdoor Accessories now employs 30 people, most of whom have been with the company for decades (one employee told CBC News she recalls holding Stevens as a baby).

Stevens' grandfather, Norm Coghlan, started the business in 1959, selling camp stove toasters. (Pat Kaniuga/CBC )

They distribute close to 600 different camping accessories, most selling for under $10, and ship to between 20 to 25 countries around the world. 

"You're not you're not going to get outfitted to climb Everest here — you're not gonna be able to buy a tent," said Stevens.

"But you can get all the little things that kind of bring the connections together, and lets you connect and have more fun with your family."

The company now sells close to 600 different camping accessories (Pat Kaniuga/CBC )

With files from Pat Kaniuga

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