North

Yellowknife's only snowmobile retailer sells out of snowmobiles

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant big business for Polar Tech Recreation in Yellowknife, but it's also meant a lack of machines to sell. The retailer recently sold out its season stock of 225 snowmobiles, with no more expected until October.

Polar Tech Recreation facing increased demand, manufacturer shortages as result of COVID-19 pandemic

Joey Sutton, the owner of Polar Tech Recreation, says that his store has completely sold out of snowmobiles, and doesn't expect to have more until next fall. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

If you're living in Yellowknife and looking to get a snowmobile for the holiday season, you may be out of luck.

Polar Tech Recreation, the city's only snowmobile retailer, officially sold out its stock last week, and owner Joey Sutton says that there are no new machines on the horizon.

"Normally we'd sell 180, 190 sleds a year," said Sutton. "This year, we sold 225 before the first of December. So it's really rocking here.

"There won't be any more ready for this year. Everyone's completely sold out, manufacturer's done for the year. The next lot of sleds is going to be next September or October."

Sutton says the spike in demand — something he attributes to the lack of travel options due to the COVID-19 pandemic — combined with the pandemic's impact on manufacturers led to the shortage. 

While he's seeing it at his store in Yellowknife, Sutton says other retailers across the country are facing similar issues, and that "there's soon not going to be any, anywhere, for people to buy."

"All the recreation stores in Canada are just going crazy," said Sutton, adding that he's also sold out of quads and side-by-sides. "[People] can't travel, but they still want to be outside."

"We're turning away customers every day."

The lack of snowmobile supply in Yellowknife will have an impact across the North, said Sutton, who estimates about half of his sales are to small communities, with most of those in Nunavut. 

For now, he's directing people "wherever there's sleds left," including to Diggerz Sports in Hay River, the N.W.T.'s other snowmobile retailer.

A salesperson at Diggerz Sports in Hay River told CBC that they still have snowmobiles in supply and have already seen customers from Yellowknife over the past week, but expect to sell out soon.

Boxes of unassembled snowmobiles line Polar Tech's lot. The number of sales has his mechanics backed up, but Sutton says every one of these machines is spoken for. (Chantal Dubuc/CBC)

For now, Sutton says Polar Tech will turn to clothing sales and machine repairs and maintenance for the rest of the winter. His mechanics are hard at work putting together purchased snowmobiles for clients, something that he says has caused a bit of a wait for clients and "a real strain" on his team.

Despite the strange circumstances, though, Sutton says it's been "a fantastic year."

"We're disappointed we can't help some new customers, but it's a bit of an odd year. The manufacturing sector is upside down, and that's the way it's going to be for a little while."

With files from Chantal Dubuc

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