Nova Scotia

After COVID-19 threatened to permanently shutter his business, he's busier than ever

When Pro Cycle in Dartmouth, N.S., closed its doors in March, co-owner Keith Ramsay doubted the business would survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But today, his only problem is keeping the showroom stocked to keep up with demand.

'It was a nice surprise after considering what could have happened,' says ATV seller

After COVID-19 threatened to permanently shutter his business, he's busier than ever

CBC News Nova Scotia

10 months ago
2:07
When Pro Cycle in Dartmouth, N.S., closed its doors in March, co-owner Keith Ramsay doubted the business would survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But today, his only problem is keeping the showroom stocked to keep up with demand. 2:07

When Pro Cycle in Dartmouth, N.S., closed its doors in March, co-owner Keith Ramsay doubted the business would survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

But today, his only problem is keeping the showroom stocked with enough machines to keep up with demand.

"It was a nice surprise after considering what could have happened," Ramsay said.

Sales of all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, have climbed steadily since mid-March when the pandemic began and Nova Scotians were asked to stay home as much as possible.

Sales in May were up about 71 per cent, Ramsay said. By June, those sales doubled compared to the same month in 2019.

"Because of the huge increase in sales where we're all scrambling for product, every dealer I talked to says the same thing. They're calling me and asking, 'Do you have this or that,' and 'Would you give it up?' Nobody's giving anything up. You're selling it yourself pretty much as fast as we can get it ready," Ramsay said.

An ATV on display for sale at Pro Cycle. (CBC)

Ramsay said when the pandemic began, it was a devastating blow for him and his 28 employees.

Everyone was sent home and the plan was to do as much online business and home delivery as possible.

But things quickly turned around.

While his showroom has ATVs and motorcycles on display, Ramsay said there's nothing in the warehouse. What's on the floor represents the store's inventory, he said.

Ramsay spends his days on the phone with manufacturers in the U.S., Mexico and Japan looking for shipments. 

Even with the restricted borders, he said truckers are getting through and making deliveries. It just takes a little longer.

While the showroom at Pro Cycle looks full, there's nothing in the warehouse. Demand for ATVs has soared because of the COVID-19 pandemic and people looking to stay closer to home this summer. (CBC)

"The success of this industry during all this was a shock to everyone," he said. "The manufacturers weren't ready. We weren't ready. Being a big dealer, I probably had more inventory than a lot of guys. So we still have stuff to sell. But it's thin and selling fast."

All of Ramsay's staff returned, but it's not business as usual.

The store has reduced its hours, they're cleaning more and it's generally more labour intensive to be in the sales business during a pandemic.

The machines aren't cheap either. A basic model costs at least $8,000.

In June, Pro Cycle sold 262 machines, including ATVs, motorbikes, side-by-sides, lawnmowers and generators.

Barry Barnet is the executive director of the ATV Association of Nova Scotia. (CBC)

"It's not the people that are on CERB coming in buying new four-wheelers and motorcycles, it's the people that have good jobs, and they didn't spend their money going south or whatever they spend their money on," Ramsay said.

Barry Barnet, executive director of the ATV Association of Nova Scotia (ATVANS), said travel restrictions are impacting what consumers are spending their money on. 

"They're taking their normal leisure money that they spent on a winter vacation or a Caribbean cruise and they're investing in something they can use here at home," he said.

"You know, the other thing about our sport is it gets you into good, fresh outdoors and that's good for everybody."

Barnet said the association has been getting more calls from people looking for information on how to join. He said people also want more information on maps and where to find courses.

"It's been the busiest year since I've been with ATVANS and that's nearly 11 years," he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.

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