Champlain Lake
Paddlers leave the mouth of the Winooski River and enter Lake Champlain on Monday, July 8, 2019. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

When most businesses in Vermont closed at the onset of the coronavirus crisis in mid-March, Nate Cochran spent “a lot of sleepless nights” wondering how – or if – he was going to reopen his three full stores. air in Morrisville, Enosburg Falls and Newport.

Just over three months later, however, Cochran is faced with another challenge: finding enough inventory to meet an unprecedented increase in demand for outdoor gear at his store, The Great Outdoors.

“We have been very busy,” Cochran said.

Outdoor stores across the state have been unable to meet demand for boating, camping and fishing equipment. The sales boom is an unexpected counter-cyclical boost against the backdrop of the global economic downturn.

At Umiak Outdoor Outfitters – an outdoor adventure store that sells kayaks, canoes and accessories at its Stowe and Williston stores – “he’s a gangbuster to the limit,” according to the retail manager of longtime Joe Henry.

Henry said Umiak’s retail sales in May were up fivefold from last year.

“We dance wherever we can to try to find products to take to the store because the demand is there,” he said.

Henry said he “wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen” when the store was forced to close and then move on to curbside pickup. But since the store reopened, boat sales have hit an all-time high thanks to locals and foreigners planning to spend the summer in Vermont, Henry said.

“We kept thinking that after a few weeks he would die, and he wasn’t,” he said. “It is still running at full speed. “

The Outdoor Gear Exchange on Church Street in Burlington has reopened in accordance with public health and hygiene guidelines. Mike Gordon disinfects a display at the store on Friday, June 5, 2020. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

At Outdoor Gear Exchange, Church Street’s largest outdoor store, sales of bicycles and boats have increased, according to Mike Donohue, one of the store’s co-owners. Bicycle sales have also been set up in other stores across the state during the pandemic.

Still, Donohue said it had been a “tough time” for the Outdoor Gear Exchange given the store’s many different departments and the loss of several big weekends – including graduation days and the Vermont City Marathon – in due to the virus.

Cochran, owner of The Great Outdoors store, said he was also running low on ammunition due to gun sales. increased in Vermont stores during the pandemic. In March, more federal background checks have been completed in the state than any other month recorded.

Kevin Lothian, the owner of Boat Headquarters, which sells and services motorboats in Swanton, said he was taken by surprise when business started to flourish after the closure ended. Lothian said he had “never seen such good sales” in his 27 years at the helm of the store.

“My son and I have been working seven days a week for a long time trying to appeal to as many customers as possible,” Lothian said. “Even though we work seven days a week, we’re not going to be popular with everyone because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to make it happen.”

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