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Don’t Rush to Buy Next Season’s Gear Online. Your Local Gear Shop Needs Your Business.

Technology + Gear Outdoor
by Tim Wenger Apr 9, 2020

With all this time to sit around the house, you may find yourself thinking ahead to the gear you need to hit the trail this summer or the slopes next winter. The problem is that, since your favorite local gear shop is not classified as an “essential business,” it’s closed during the pandemic until further notice. Upon realizing this, your first instinct might be to rush to Amazon and order what you need. Problem solved with the convenience of home delivery, right?

However modern and expedient this line of thought may be, you should reconsider it for items that you don’t actually need right away. Your local shop is closed, meaning they aren’t doing any business and, unless the store is a long-time establishment etched into the storyline of your town’s history alongside the library, general store, and old post office, odds are high that the management is in panic mode.

That store is counting on people like you for ongoing support — in other words, your patronage — after this whole thing calms down. Being the community-minded citizen that you are, you can consider the following options to support your local gear shop during this time when they most need it. Amazon’s warehouses are backed up, anyway, so you might not even have to wait much longer than you would should you click that “Buy Now” button.

In many states, bike shops remain open.

Photo: goodluz/Shutterstock

With public transit and ride-sharing unsafe or shut down in many places, bicycles are among the safest methods of transportation during the coronavirus pandemic. As such, New York, California, and Colorado, among other states, have classified bike shops as essential businesses — after much lobbying from local cycling communities. This allows them to remain open and operational even as traditional outdoor-gear shops must shutter. Others, like New Mexico, do not consider bike shops essential. If your state prioritizes bike commuting, make your local bike shop stop number one as many carry running or hiking gear and equipment for other sports, as well. Whether or not they’re allowed to sell other retail items, or even allow people in their store, is based on local restrictions and the shop’s interpretation of regulations. If you do visit a bike shop, follow proper social distancing protocol, of course.

“We’re still allowed to do bike service, but that’s about it,” said Cole Hanson, co-owner of The Gear Junction in Grand Junction, Colorado. “Other than bike service, we’re essentially shut down.” The Gear Junction is working to launch an online sales platform that would allow them to sell both gear and gift cards online though, at the moment, gift cards can only be purchased over the phone.

Buy a gift card.

Photo: Colleen Michaels/Shutterstock

On that note, the gift card option could prove to be a lifeline for outdoor businesses in need. The easiest way to support your local gear shop, and indeed most small local businesses unable to operate at this time, is to buy a gift card from its website. Above all, this gives the shop much-needed support while the storefront is closed. In planning ahead for next ski season, for example, you’re essentially pre-paying for a new pair of skis or boots to cash in when the snow starts flying next fall. Or, go all out and calculate an estimated cost of gear requirements and purchase a gift certificate in that amount. This doesn’t put the gear in your hands right now but it is a great way to set yourself up for an upcoming season. And if you’re the type who deeply researches a piece of gear before buying, a gift card in hand gives you that much more motivation.

Buy via shops’ websites, by appointment, or verified eBay and Craigslist ads.

Photo: everst/Shutterstock

Shops without online sales platforms may be able to sell you a piece of gear by appointment. Many, like Gear Junction, also sell items on eBay and ship them to customer’s homes. “We’re working to get our inventory online right now, which is not something we’ve had historically,” Hanson said. “We have an eBay store that we sell stuff through, and we continue to do that where it’s applicable. We’re doing gift cards over the phone right now.”

Our research found Craigslist fully operational, despite the occasional price gouger, and sales from “classified ads” are generally not under restriction. Check the gear section on your town’s Craigslist page as local sellers may list gear for sale here. Buying by appointment in these circumstances may require contacting the seller in advance to figure out the best way to arrange the sale. The transaction may take place mostly over the phone in order to minimize in-person contact.

Even if the shop can’t sell you the gear right away, it may be able to hold it for you to pick up once they reopen. Take a moment to shoot an email or a phone call to see what the store recommends. What better way to celebrate the end of quarantine than by heading out to pick up your brand new stand-up paddleboard or a fresh pair of hiking boots?

Hold off until shops reopen.

Waiting is no fun, but if a piece of gear isn’t something you need right away, consider resisting the urge to impulse buy it and wait until your local shop reopens. Sure, it’s tough to keep that money you had slated for a new pair of skis in your bank account without blowing it, but working in your favor here is the fact that there aren’t many places to go on a spending spree right now, anyway. Sometimes, waiting is power.

“The best-case scenario for everybody is to stay safe and get this thing over with as quickly as possible,” Hanson said. “Of course, if somebody can wait, and they’re willing to wait and keep it local, we’re obviously huge fans of that.”

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