The Tri-State Territory’s outdoor leisure industry is gearing up for a season brimming with customer interest and pandemic demand from 2020, which continues to impact product supply.
The spring 2020 COVID-19 pandemic outbreak triggered widespread lockdowns or lesser recommendations in the case of Iowa to help slow the spread of the disease. But health professionals have largely mandated outdoor recreation as a much safer way to stay active.
So, people flocked to activities like biking, kayaking, hiking, fishing and many more in numbers never seen in recent memories.
“In my experience, which is a decade, what we saw in 2020 was unprecedented,” said Dave Hartig of Bicycle World in Dubuque. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Once they were quarantined at home, they likely had to get out. People feel more sedentary and isolated when locked inside. “
The same was true of Nuts Outdoors in Galena, Illinois, where both the equipment retail and rental industries were booming.
“At first we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said owner Silas Tepple. “But no matter what for us, it was the COVID jackpot.”
And since the nation’s inoculation does not outperform the introduction of spring, the popularity of outdoor recreation seems to be perennial, at least for the time being.
“For what it’s worth, it started back in March of this year, people trying to buy kayaks and bikes,” Tepple said. “We’re two months ahead of time. I wish I could tell you if it will be a long-term uptrend, but I think it’s here for now. Some people were exposed to nature and outdoor recreation for the first time. “
However, that boom in 2020 resulted in a lack of equipment for some outdoor activities. New kayaks have been almost impossible to find for most of the past year. It wasn’t easier in cycling.
“One thing we forget is that Dubuque isn’t the only market. The pandemic was global, ”said Hartig. “The demand for devices is global. It’s not an isolated thing. That’s why stocks are tight and the pipelines are dry. “
He said a pre-pandemic rider could call with a part they need or a full bike and Bicycle World could have it in a few days.
“Just-in-time was a fully functional paradigm,” said Hartig. “The bicycle orders placed today will not be carried out by the manufacturers until autumn. We have a full order pipeline. I want people to be able to plan that. “
That log jam on new equipment orders wasn’t all that bad, though.
“What I’m really happy about is that due to the lack of new equipment, we saw a boom in people finding old equipment that had just been stored, bringing them in and repairing them,” said Hartig. “That fits the ethos of this shop. If it can be made for your needs, it doesn’t need to be replaced.”
In Galena, Nuts Outdoors also rents kayaks, canoes and paddle boards for trips on the Galena River. There, the boom in interest has also led to adapted preparations.
“We will have more staff, more rivers,” said Tepple. “We’re adding more hours. Our last boat window is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We started at the end of last year. “
Several calls to Fever River Outfitters in Galena and Maquoketa River Rentals in Maquoketa went unanswered for this story.