Outdoors gear supply still negatively affected by pandemic, but not as bad as 2021

Verus Kayaks founder Josh Pecaric found himself at the confluence of high shipping costs, increased tariffs and other supply-chain issues in recent years, factors that have had a huge impact on the outdoors retail industry. Now, he’s working temporarily as a salesman at Confluence Kayak & Ski in Denver while he moves his whitewater kayak manufacturing operation from China to South Carolina.

Pecaric has unique perspectives on the myriad challenges facing outdoors gear stores, bike shops, paddle-sport retailers and their suppliers. Like many working in outdoors retail, he says inventories are better than they were a year ago. Confluence Kayaks, just down the street from Confluence Park, sells kayaks and paddleboards, and right now they’re doing OK on inventory.

“It’s still taking a lot of time for things to trickle in,” Pecaric said. “It’s a slow trickle. We had an order that was supposed to arrive in September 2020, and it didn’t arrive until about three weeks ago. We at least have enough stock to get us by and do the sales that we need.”

One night this week, the shop received a shipment of 38 boats.

Pecaric’s experience as a manufacturer offers insight into how all those supply-chain problems evolved. Issues related to the COVID pandemic were hardly the only causes. Tariff increases on goods shipped from China played a big role, too.

Pecaric said his company went from paying $2,800 to transport a 40-foot shipping container (which can hold 120 kayaks) three or four years ago to $54,000 per container now. (That’s not a typo.) His overall shipping costs increased more than 19 times over what he had been paying. That’s why he is “re-shoring” — that is, the opposite of off-shoring, meaning he’s bringing manufacturing back to the United States.

“And, believe it or not, it only costs $10 more to make a boat here than it does in China,” said Pecaric, who will move to South Carolina in a few weeks to help set up the new factory.

1 Outdoors gear supply still negatively affected by pandemic, but not as bad as 2021

Patrick T. Fallon , AFP

A truck carries a shipping container at the Port of Long Beach on Jan. 11, 2022 in California. Many supply chain issues in recent years have been caused by backups there. Now there is the threat that more than 22,000 West Coast dockworkers may go on strike when their contract expires this spring.

There are other pressures on supply chains, of course. The high cost of fuel is one. Now, too, there is the looming threat of a labor impasse at West Coast ports that could idle more than 22,000 dockworkers when their union contract expires in June.

But for now, at least, inventories generally are better at bike shops and outdoors gear stores than they were a year ago. Phillip Brown, co-owner of Elevation Cycles — which operates four shops in the metro area — said about three-quarters of the stock they normally carry is readily available.

“But things haven’t been bouncing back in a linear fashion,” Brown said. “So, that quarter that is not readily available, some of those things are still a year away. Those things have trickled in over time, so if we were aggressive enough with our purchasing when it was available, we were able to get a lot and we still have decent inventory on a lot of those things. But, what I order right now is on back order, and won’t show up for eight months to a year in some cases.”

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