Outdoor recreation booms amidst pandemic

Outdoor recreation businesses are booming

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - While the weather wasn’t ideal Wednesday for outdoor activities, sunnier days have been the bright spot for people anxious to get out of the house during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also been a ray of sunshine for local businesses that depend on the outdoors for their livelihoods.

All sorts of sporting goods and recreational vehicle dealers are seeing incredible numbers this summer.

Wilmington R-V has three campers on the lot as of Wednesday afternoon, and one is already spoken for.

At Atlantic Marine, the showroom is usually full of about 14 shiny new boats, but right now, there are only a handful and most of them are pre-owned—and one is spoken for.

While there usually are more ‘around back’ (sign!)...there aren’t right now, at least none that are for sale.

At the onset of the pandemic, sales manager Tom Harris said they discussed how it might impact business, fearing the worst.

“We never thought what was going to happen [would be what] has happened, and that has been just astronomical sales,” Harris said.

People are taking up new hobbies that include anything to get the family outside.

At Intracoastal Angler, General Manager Arlen Ash said, “More and more people are fishing. People that have never fished before are starting to participate."

“I think that goes for any of the outdoor industries," he said.

Both Ash and Harris realize how lucky they and their co-workers are in the industry.

”A lot of our good customers are other local business owners," said Ash. “Other businesses that have had to either completely close, remain closed, might still be closed, or have had to completely change the way they do business; and, we’ve really been fortunate we didn’t have to do that.”

Harris said, “It’s terrible and we’ve just...it fell in our hands, you know what I mean? I wish we could say we take credit for all these sales but in a certain way we can’t.”

Boats are back-ordered for almost a year and there’s a strong market for pre-owned.

Now, it’s the manufacturing delays brought on by COVID-19 that worries business owners who have done well up to now.

“The hardest thing over the last couple of months has been getting inventory and having enough product to sell, which is a fortunate problem for us to have,” said Ash.

While the pandemic has taken a lot from us in 2020, Ash hopes the return to nature will be a lasting benefit.

“Hopefully, this will get more people that continue to go outdoors and do these activities that are more healthy than sitting at home," he said. "Hopefully they continue it going forward.”

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