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December 2020 Issue
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Why your favourite tramping gear might not be available this Christmas

Martin Walker of Christchurch outdoor retailer Further Faster says demand for gear has been huge. Photo: George Driver

Unprecedented demand combined with production and freight delays means outdoor retailers are struggling to keep their shelves full.

Outdoor gear retailers and distributors are advising trampers to buy their gear early this summer or risk missing out as unprecedented demand, production issues and freight delays have created shortages.

It comes as more people are heading outdoors in the face of COVID-19 and Kiwis look to “gear up” for the summer.

Further Faster owner Martin Walker says he has not seen such high demand in 35 years in the outdoors industry.

“Local demand has been huge,” Walker says. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.

“We’ve purchased more tents than we’ve ever purchased but we’re still selling out.”

He says one manufacturer, Sierra Designs, has completely sold out of some stock and production is being hampered by a shortage of raw materials.

It comes on the back of a strong sales season in Europe and North America at a time when production and freight have been curtailed by the global pandemic.

His advice: If you want gear, buy it now.

“It might not be there in a month’s time.”

But despite the shortages, he says customers shouldn’t expect to pay more.

“We’re still committed to staying competitive,” he says. “People shouldn’t be profiting out of this.”

Gearshop owner Hamish Pirie says demand has been unprecedented.
“Demand is through the roof.”

He says a lot of gear companies are running out of stock and some retailers might face shortages.

“Demand has outstripped supply,” he says. “Everyone’s wanting to go camping and tramping at once and the manufacturing can’t keep up.

“A lot of companies don’t have anything to send us. Big Agnes has been gutted.

“I have stock but if we needed to order more for summer we’d be buggered.”

He says some brands were asking suppliers to forecast their orders out to 2022, so they could increase manufacturing to keep up.

“But how can we predict that?”

He says there has been a particular surge in bike packing and Te Araroa Trail hikers gearing up.

Pirie says the shortages may mean consumers will pay more.

“There will be less discounting because people are currently buying products at full price and if we know we can’t get any more product when it runs out it’s difficult to justify selling it for cheaper.”

Nic Burgess from wholesale importer and distributor Ampro says demand has spiked since lockdown and still hasn’t dampened.

“We expected a bit of a resurgence from pent-up demand after lockdown but it looks like it’s going to head right through until Christmas,” Burgess says.

He says lockdowns have impacted production from manufacturers in countries including France, Spain, Brazil and the US which has “strangled capacity”.

“It’s not just directly due to issues in their respective countries, but also delays in the supply of materials out of Asia and some significant choke points with shipping.”

He says they are anticipating some shortages before Christmas.

“People might need to get in early.”

But it appears some brands have coped with the pandemic better than others

Neil Stichbury is director of outdoor gear distributor Outfitters and says most of his brands have been able to continue production through the pandemic and now have sufficient stock.

“Other brands cancelled everything and closed their factories and laid off staff and now have a shortage,” Stichbury says.

But he says there was a shortage in RAB sleeping bags, which were stuffed by hand in the UK, as physical distancing rules meant only one person could stuff a bag, rather than two.

He says sales during winter were up more than 200 per cent.“We had ordered a lot of stock which arrived during lockdown but then sales went ballistic,” he says. “I think some businesses cancelled orders at first but if anything we invested more.”

Bivouac Outdoor managing director Wayne Martin says the company’s main brands have also been able to continue production through the pandemic but a surge in demand for packs, tents and sleeping bags (along with a decline in demand for travel luggage and accessories) combined with a reduction in the number of cargo ships coming to New Zealand means there may be some shortages this summer.

“It is possible that these two aspects will create some short-term gaps in our stocks over the summer months,” he says. “I would encourage our customers not to procrastinate if they need a critical item within a specific timeframe.”