Overlander Sports was in the same quandary as many other businesses in town once the real threat of Covid-19 hit.
Do they stay open or do they shut shop for a while to ride things out?
They chose the latter and it was the first time in the store’s 37-year history that it closed for any length of time.
March 21 was when the store stopped normal operations, said Sandra Stirling, who co-owns the store with Bill Stirling.
“That’s when things really started to ramp up with Covid-19,” she said. “Places were being told to shut down and there were plenty of tourists still around town so there was a genuine worry about our staff.”
Unlike other locations around town, Overlander didn’t do things such as curbside pick-ups or deliveries right away mainly because they were limited in staff numbers.
“We slowly got things back up,” said Stirling. “We started by answering the phones, returning messages and e-mails for a few hours a day. Then it was doing some curbside pick-ups and some deliveries but that was difficult because we had a small crew.”
The store was forced to lay people off, as many other businesses had to do, and there wasn’t much business mainly because the store doesn’t do online sales.
After more than a month with closed doors, the store had a limited re-opening on April 27 with new rules in place and some added features such as plexi-glass shields at each counter, all made by Diamond Glass, and social distancing stickers on the floor.
Stirling said the decision was made based on the current climate surrounding Covid-19.
“Everyone who’s had it has recovered from it, there’s been no new cases and tests have been coming back negative,” she said.
Right now, there’s a limit of 10 people allowed in the store at one time and Stirling said that’s a manageable number.
“People just aren’t used to being distanced and we’re all learning a new way of being,” she said. “We’re seeing people wear masks – my staff isn’t wearing them – and it’s the way life is right now until we know we’re in the clear. The one thing I will say is that the NWT and the medical professionals have done an amazing job in nailing things down. It was tough short-term but it’s going to make us better in the long run.”
With the snow all but melted in the city, people are beginning to show signs of life in terms of their activity levels and Stirling said that’s being seen in what’s leaving the shelves.
“Our bikes are selling well along with our running shoes,” she said. “Both are good for exercise and you can keep your distance as well. Camping is going to be a big thing with people getting out on the land and paddling is going to be strong. People are just going to be getting out a lot simply because they’ve been cooped up long enough and they want to be active.”
What isn’t selling? Soccer and baseball gear.
“Not a lot of interest in that side, I’m afraid,” she said with a laugh. “We have some gloves out but there aren’t any of those types of sports up and going so we haven’t seen a lot of business with that.”
This story is sponsored by Government of Northwest Territories, Industry, Tourism and Investment.