At this time last year, we in the outdoor world were coming off a great summer and fall full of adventure. Plans were being made for the winter sports or trips south for mountain biking or surfing. Our nation’s ski areas got off to a fantastic start with plenty of snow and guests. It looked like it might be a banner year for much of the country.
And then, in the blink of an eye, pretty much the entire country was shut down at some level. Guides & outfitters and ski areas had to shutter their businesses and event promoters were forced to cancel thousands of races. While the entire nation has suffered, this COVID year has been particularly hard on the businesses operating in the outdoor space.
While more Americans are getting outside they are doing it on their own and not with the assistance of traditional business operators. Have you tried to purchase a bike currently. You can’t find one.
Back in May the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable did a survey in partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative of how COVID was affecting businesses working in the outdoor space and their findings were bleak.
It found that, “The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the outdoor recreation industry continued to worsen throughout the month of May. More companies faced declining sales and revenue, difficulties with production and distribution, and large numbers of furloughs and layoffs. In some cases, outdoor businesses are being forced to close their doors for good.” And this was back in May!
The ORR report went on to say, “According to the US Census Bureau, which measured COVID-19 impacts on small businesses, 75 percent of small businesses in the category that includes recreation are reporting large and negative effects. Overall, our category has been hit 31 percent harder than the national average, making our industry the second most affected sector in the country behind ‘food and accommodation’ – (U.S. Census Bureau Small Business Pulse Survey). While we are seeing some jobs return in specific sectors, many are in restaurants, buffered by stimulus, with their durability in question as states reopen and nationwide COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
According to the latest responses of the 21 participating national outdoor recreation trade associations, representing over 23,000 businesses with nearly 2 million employees, the impact is startling:
- Of the businesses this survey represents, all are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution, with 79 percent experiencing significant impacts.
- 88 percent of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce
- 94 percent of outdoor industry businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales with about 24 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago.
- 95 percent of outdoor industry trade associations are seeing a decrease in revenue with 26 percent seeing a decrease of 50 percent or greater compared to one year ago.
Fast forward to today, and while many businesses in the outdoor space have since been able to reopen in some modified capacity, very few are operating at levels anyway near where they were at this time last year. And the pandemic is far from over. While promising vaccines are currently in trial stages, they can’t get here soon enough to allow businesses to be fully operational.
At Buddy we travel the country working with the best in the outdoor world. We know their strength, creativity and resilience. While these are tough times, we will survive this thing. We are too important to our nation not too!
The ORR study concluded with these words, “In time we’ll get back to full strength and do what we do best, revitalize communities, create jobs, support public health, improve quality of life and provide access to amazing outdoor experiences for generations to come.” We couldn’t say it any better, Stay strong!