Sales of RVs, boats and other rec equipment booming in Sask.
'We have doubled our numbers,' sales manager said
With international traveling still restricted and entertainment possibilities limited, Saskatchewanians seem eager to invest in outdoor recreational equipment.
While COVID-19 provided hardship and worries for a lot of people, it also gave people like Carmen Appleby more reasons to spend time outside.
Appleby wanted to get her own kayak for years.
"This seemed like a good year to buy one," said Appleby.
"I like to be outdoors and usually do lots of outdoor things. But I also like to go to restaurants and stuff. So because I didn't do that, I had some extra cash anyway and summer was coming. So it made sense."
The rush to get outside has had a positive impact on many stores in the province.
Darcey Shaw, owner of Alsport Sales in Regina, said his business has had more than double the sales of last year.
"The best selling items for us have been kids' dirt bikes," said Shaw.
"We had a really good run through March, April, May and the early part of June. And then we ran out of course and so did Honda."
Shaw said a lot of his customers were first-time motorcycle riders who also required protection gear such as helmets and chest protectors.
"So it was good for the whole store for sure," said Shaw.
Anthony Leece, rec sales manager at Redhead Powersports in North Battleford, has had a similar experience. He said everything is selling great right now, from pontoon boats to lawnmowers.
"This year compared to last year we have doubled our numbers almost for the whole year in just these three to four months," said Leece.
He has had to work extra to help construct some of the items that don't come fully assembled.
"My mechanics were so busy that me and the other salesmen had to start building some of the units just to keep up."
COVID-19 challenging for many
Despite those success stories, COVID-19 has had the opposite effect for some. Many companies in the province had to close their doors, with some switching to online services to stay in business. The unemployment rate in the province hit 7.3 per cent in March.
"We were basically kind of closed for about a month," said Ron Mitchell, co-owner of Carlyle RV & Leisure. His store is located about 100 km northeast of Estevan.
"Everything is still down from where it was a year ago. But even a year ago it was down from before. Because it wasn't just the COVID. Our economy has been hurting too the last couple of years. We are in oil country out here."
According to Statistics Canada, Saskatchewan's GDP decreased to $81.5 billion in 2019 from around $82.2 billion in 2018.
Difficulties keeping up with demand
Despite the challenges, Carlyle RV & Leisure has been busy during the last month and a half. Once the business sells out of ATVs, it probably won't be able to get more until the new year because there is a backlog of units not being built, Mitchell said.
Michelle Ferguson, sales manager at Moose Jaw RV & Marine, echoed that experience.
"The factories were closed for six weeks," said Ferguson. "So inventory to purchase is behind."
Moose Jaw RV & Marine was not mandated to close, said Ferguson, because its services were considered essential du to some people living in their campers. Besides international travel restrictions, Ferguson also believes the exchange rate has something to do with their current sales boom.
"The exchange rate is ... more in favour of the United States than Canada. So importing those units into Canada, everything on the dealer's lot right now is going to be cheaper for the customer than what is going to be next year…. People are snapping it up because they are realizing that now is a better time to purchase than next year will be."
Roof racks among top items
Non-motorized outdoor recreational equipment such as canoes or kayaks seem to be going through a similar boom.
"Our paddle sports have been very strong," said Kevin Robinson, owner of Eb's Source For Adventure in Saskatoon.
"Although we don't sell bicycles ... there is a shortage of roof racks. So we are having big challenges in getting roof racks for customers to carry bikes or canoes or luggage boxes."
Appleby was one of the people in need of a roof rack. The kayak she bought wasn't much good until she could bring it to the water.
"You just have to know that a roof rack can be more costly than you think it's going to be," said Appleby.
"I had to order one, and then it was like almost the same price as the kayak. So then I didn't really save any money buying the kayak on sale."