Pandemic driving more interest in outdoor pursuits

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With the pandemic, more people are taking advantage of outdoor pursuits, including boating, fishing, camping, and even wildlife viewing. Sporting goods sales were up last year, but boat dealers say getting inventory was a challenge.


After one of my many trips to a sporting goods store, my wife asked me if I really needed more bags of plastic worms and expensive lures. I replied that yes, these new worm colors and hot new crankbaits would make my fishing trips much more productive and enjoyable. At least that’s what the article in a magazine said. How much money have I spent over the years on my outdoor pursuits? I’m a fairly consistent part of the $46 billion or so that anglers spend yearly, and most of us would agree it was all worth it. Of course, there was that spring break, long drive trip to Millwood Lake in Texas that was a bust, and that September jaunt to Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee that was a double bust, but I don’t regret taking them. I do regret not spending money hiring a guide though. It would’ve made those ventures much more successful.

Lately with the virus issues, this nation’s 60 million anglers and big numbers of hunters and campers are pouring more dollars into outdoor ventures that take our minds off our current plight and get us outside. Some research dug out these rough figures from a couple of years ago: $23 billion is spent on hunting, which is a down some from previous years. An astounding $33 billion is spent on wildlife viewing. Around 42 billion people participate yearly in some form of camping, whether car, backyard, or RV. About $3-4 billion is spent on camping equipment alone.

Many sportsmen get tight-fisted when it comes to spending money for most anything except what we need for outdoor enjoyment. Our argument is that the time we spend outside should be free of hassles, such as mechanical failure or the dastardly problem of having the not-quite-exact lure for the conditions. We want our precious nature time to be trouble free. The annual dollar amount spent on outdoor pursuits is considerable. With the pandemic driving people to be outside, most sports stores have seen an increase in sales. Some local boat dealers voiced their comments.

Patsy and Mark at Port of Jasper:

“After 38 years in the boating business, we have not seen a year like 2020. It has been great to see families get back into boating and many new ones get into boating. We sold out of product, yet at the same time we saw boats pulled out of the back yard that had not been used in years. Any outside activity was what everyone was looking for this year.”

From Jim Tyler at Tyler Boats in Rockport:

“Our business is up for the year about 40% due to the virus. We found that our customers didn’t go on big vacations but used their boat more or purchased a boat to do family things together. Also, we had even more customers because summer sports were cancelled. The problem was getting parts, accessories, boats, motors, and trailers because factories had shut down and couldn’t catch up on the demand. Some factories had trouble getting their workers back and had trouble with their suppliers who couldn’t get parts. But it was a good year for us. Now our problem is getting supplies because some factories are sold out for 2021, and special orders will be hard to get this summer.”

Amanda Neukam, sales manager for Outdoor World in Washington, also saw an increase of around 40% in business and says she’s seen reports of up to a 70% jump in the used boat market. She also notes problems getting inventory.

“My family started this place around 1994 and I have never seen anything like this. While the boats are manufactured in the US, many parts are imported, including seat bases, hinges, gauges, plumbing hardware, propellers, circuit and electrical items, just to name a few. Even life jackets can be in short supply. These are critical but the single most important import is the motor. Nearly all are made in Japan and come to port in California. The exception is a few Mercury motors which come from China, or parts sent in from Mexico. California has been one of the first states to shut down and last to open on more than one occasion. I have had many motors on back order for six months, but in the last few weeks motors have been trickling in.

“We also saw an increase in boats coming out of the woodwork, so to say. Boats that had been sitting for years came out of the weeds..and needed servicing, but some were just too far gone. We were back logged six-eight weeks already, so we couldn’t give the attention that some older boats needed. We had to turn away many newer boats due to parts being unavailable or back ordered for months. We are waiting for products ordered last summer, but our manufacturers are shutting off new orders as most of them are a year behind. I’m hoping for a good 2021, but that hinges on product availability and people getting back to some sort of normal. I also hope the massive surge in sales last year didn’t take all new prospective buyers.”

Make plans this year to spend more time outdoors. If you intend to buy a boat or camper or have one serviced, better get moving now. There’s most likely a waiting list.

Have a suggestion for this column? Shoot me an email at lagrange237@gmail. Stay safe. Better days are coming.

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