As businesses across the country grapple with the new way of operating, firearm and ammunition retailers are also changing the way they do business in response to the ongoing pandemic.
Matthew Hipwell, one of the owners of Virden-based Wolverine Supplies, said the company has closed the storefront and implemented social distancing among staff. Staff members are also working in shifts to limit the number of people in the store at any given time and the store itself is now pickup only.
At the same time as business is shifting, sales are increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We have seen an increase in firearms purchases and ammunition … there isn’t one specific (product), the purchases have increased across the board in all categories," he said.
He said there is a belief among some in the firearms community that prices will increase as a result of the pandemic and items will be sold out, which could be driving sales. People want to make sure they have supplies for hunting or sport shooting later this year.
"People want to make sure that they have the product right now at the best price they can purchase it at," he said.
It is still too early to determine how much sales have risen, Hipwell said, but the current emphasis on social distancing might be giving people more opportunities for shooting sports. While other sports like recreation hockey need a team of people to play, shooting can be done solo or in small groups.
"It allows people to get outside, it allows people to get into the fresh air. It allows people to dedicate or reopen a door to a hobby or a pastime they once did and got too busy with other things in life."
Other types of stores have seen shortages in recent weeks, notably in toilet paper and some canned goods, and firearms sellers are no different.
Hipwell said supply chains are changing, and the firearms industry won’t be immune to these shifts. He said the store has received notifications from some distributors in Canada and around the world that they are limiting shipping
"We expect delays and shortages in products in the weeks and months to come — that’s the unknown right now," he said. "I don’t think anyone can say how long social distancing is going to be in effect for. They can’t say how long it will taketh economy and countries to recover from."
In some cases, Wolverine Supplies has a timeline of when it will receive new inventory, but not for all distributors.
European firearms manufacturers are especially hard hit during the pandemic. Many factories have shut as governments try to clamp down on the spread of COVID-19. Brands like Merkel, which makes high-end hunting rifles, have been affected, as has telescopic sight manufacture Schmidt & Bender, Hipwell said.
The business is operating "almost as normal" for the time being, but in the long term, he said not getting new shipments of theses kinds of firearms will be an issue.
"For Wolverine Supplies, it’s very early to tell how long this … situation is going to last, we don’t know. That is the challenge, and that is the very frustrating part."
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