Demand for sports equipment and home gyms soars as Canadians prepare for pandemic winter


Canadians who need sports gear and fitness equipment to stay healthy and have fun during a pandemic winter have learned a valuable lesson: buy early to avoid disappointment.

“People saw what happened with kiddie pools and fitness equipment in the spring,” said Gillian Montgomery, co-owner of Skiis and Biikes, a sporting goods chain with three stores in southern Ontario. Its stores are already abnormally busy.

“Normally we are not interested in winter products until we see snow and even until Christmas, but this year we have had maybe 30 calls since September regarding the purchase of equipment cross-country skiing.”

At Calgary’s Abom Ski & Board, owner Randy Ahl already has a “big, long” waiting list for entry-level cross-country ski passes that haven’t even made it to the store yet.

Waiting lists are already growing

“Whether it’s a couple or a family, they say, ‘We want a phone call when these things happen,'” said Ahl, who has previously outfitted entire families with boots, sticks and skis he has in stock. “I consider over $2,000 a pretty big purchase, and it’s happened over a dozen times already.”

People who plan to exercise indoors also prepare.

Drew Berner installed a home gym in his Toronto garage.

I plan to be there all winter,” the father of three-year-old twins said. “My garage is detached, but it’s insulated, and I’m going to buy a small heater.”

At the start of the pandemic, with gyms closed, health-conscious Canadians made other arrangements, following exercise instructors on YouTube, joining classes at parks or buying exercise equipment. to use at home.

Toronto’s Drew Berner rushed to assemble a gym in his garage because many retailers ran out of equipment and second-hand goods were in high demand. (Submitted by Drew Berner)

But many retailers were unable to meet demand for sporting goods and fitness equipment. Canadian Tire experienced triple-digit growth in the category.

“Consumer demand has significantly exceeded both historical demand and available inventory,” the company said in a statement to CBC News.

A sense of urgency

When Berner tried to find a set of weights, an exercise bike, and a rowing machine for his garage, he found most were already sold out. Only by persevering could he get what he needed. He spent $3,000 on a mix of new and used equipment.

“It involved everything from alerts set on Kijiji … to email alerts from stores so I was notified as soon as they had things I wanted in stock,” Berner said, noting he needed to act quickly before another buyer is picked up. them.

Now, as COVID-19 cases rise across Canada, national fitness chains such as GoodLife Fitness and F45 Training remain open – with limited capacity. Even so, some gym members do not wish to return to an environment where people are breathing heavily and sweating. And the second-hand goods market is hot again.

The most popular search terms on online seller Kijiji are still dumbbells, ellipticals and exercise bikes, said the company’s director of community relations, Kent Sikstrom.

Used Peloton bikes have more than doubled since this time last year, while inquiries about elliptical machines are up 39% and inquiries about treadmills are up 15%.

Brother and sister team Devin and Gillian Montgomery, owners of Skiis and Biikes, a small Ontario sporting goods chain, say their stores are exceptionally busy this time of year. (Submitted by Devin and Gillian Montgomery)

“Probably in the next few weeks we’ll see maybe snowshoes, cross-country skis, sleds and snowboarding start to set a new trend for the season,” Sikstrom said.

eBay Canada, which sells both new and used goods, is also reporting significant increases. Stair machines are up 230% from the same period last year, while treadmill sales are up 280%, according to Canadian chief operating officer Rob Bigler.

Equipment not essential

“We’ve been really busy,” Bigler said. “Now is a great time to sell that treadmill that was sitting in your basement, maybe used to hang laundry.”

But Samantha Monpetit-Huynh, a physical trainer and trainer in Toronto, stressed that lots of equipment isn’t essential to staying active and healthy.

Randy Ahl, right, owner of Calgary’s Abom Ski & Board, with client Ken Dyer. Ahl has started a waiting list for beginner cross-country ski passes due to demand. (Submitted by Randy Ahl)

“People forget that your body is probably the best piece of equipment you have,” she said. “You don’t need all that – you just need to move and you need to do it regularly. More than once a week.”

Monpetit-Huynh said it was possible to use bottles of laundry detergent or cans of soup as weights and go for walks or runs. However, she recently invested $3,000 in a brand new Peloton exercise bike that allows her to join spinning classes remotely.

“I love going to the gym, but I was like, ‘You know what? I should take something because if we have a second wave, I want to be ready.'”

Berner said that for him there is more than physical fitness.

“Exercise is crucial for my mental health,” he said. “I notice that even if I go a few days without exercising, my mood starts to drop.”

Other Canadians who feel the same way and have not yet made a plan would be well advised to start considering their options – or risk being left behind for a long pandemic winter.


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