In the early weeks of the pandemic, gear stores braced for catastrophe. With people out of work and stuck at home, they feared sales would plummet. It didn’t take long, though, for Coloradans to realize that social-distancing-friendly trails, rivers, and campsites were open, leading them to Front Range shops to gear up. All at the same time.
Exacerbating shortages even further, many manufacturers closed down production facilities due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. “It was like a whiplash,” says Rick Case, founder of Nite Ize. “Retailers were closing their stores, people were staying home, and the demand for product initially stopped.” Then, he explains, people started going outdoors, leading to boosted sales.
Meanwhile, larger retailers such as REI struggled to keep up. “Our business is booming because REI has been out of stock for a lot of [camping essentials],” says Shelley Dunbar, co-owner of Boulder’s Neptune Mountaineering. She points out that while REI must restock more than 150 stores, Neptune can be more nimble, going directly to local vendors and scoring out-of-stock product.
In the end, many local gear makers and outfitters say they were unaffected, or affected positively, by the pandemic. “We did double-digit numbers over last year, even with the shorter season because of shutdowns,” says Russ Rowell, senior vice president and general manager of Kelty. “It didn’t impact our business.”