Sporting goods stores see an uptick in sales

Sales associate Ed Flowers, left, of Crystal River, shows new pickleball paddles to Phil Sutton, of the Village of Belle Aire, at Softball’s R Game/Pickleball HQ in Southern Trace Plaza.

With some outdoor sporting facilities, courts and golf courses open for people’s enjoyment, some sporting goods stores are seeing good business during the pandemic. Merchants are seeing customers who want to try out a new sport that allows them to be active and socially distance. Existing customers are buying or refreshing equipment to play pickleball, golf, softball and more. Stores such as Softball’s R Game/Pickleball HQ, Edwin Watts Golf and Village Cycles have seen steady business for the past few months in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has slowed for some, but customers are still coming in. For Softball’s R Game/Pickleball HQ, business began to pick up when sports facilities began to reopen.

Owner Kelli Campbell was seeing people come in to buy new equipment or refresh their equipment, such as getting new grips on pickleball rackets.

The store located in Southern Trace Plaza initially saw sales rise about 20% compared to last year around the same time. In the past couple of weeks, business has slowed down some with sales about 20% below what it usually would be, Campbell said.

She believes it is because people are being cautious as cases of COVID-19 have been increasing, but she also believes business will improve, depending on the outcome of the pandemic.

“If it lightens up or we see the curve start to decline, we’ll see more people getting out there and playing and signing up for softball, and we’ll see more people on the pickleball courts,” she said.

Village Cycles, with locations in La Plaza Grande and Brownwood, saw heavy traffic for several months in the midst of the pandemic.

“In the peak of the pandemic, like March, April, May, June, those four months we were just going nuts,” said Mark Hall, owner of Village Cycles with his wife, Windy. “We were busy, busy, busy, which was wonderful.”

It has returned in the last two to three weeks to the normal numbers the stores usually see in the summer.

“But we still have folks coming in asking for bikes,” Hall said.

The store is low on some inventory because of a high interest in cycling toward the beginning of the pandemic, but Hall said in the coming months he hopes things will go back to normal and he’ll be able to fully restock on certain bike brands.

Edwin Watts Golf, with locations in Lady Lake and Southern Trace Plaza, is still seeing a good flow of traffic, even during the summer months when business tends to be slowest.

As more residents than usual have stayed in the area, it has helped business, said Justin Hamrick, store manager at both Edwin Watts Golf locations.

“Golf has still been going strong,” Hamrick said. “Things have been busy in the golf shops. People are still playing.”

He has seen a lot of new customers coming in to get equipment and try out the sport — because for some time golf was one of the only sports-related activities available to residents in the area.

Hamrick believes the pandemic hasn’t slowed golf, but rather helped the sport because people can still play and maintain social distance.

When the store reopened in May, after being closed for several weeks, it was busy with people eager to come in and shop. The store quickly found momentum with more traffic than normal in May, June and parts of July.

Business is starting to slow down some but it is “nothing out of the ordinary.” Hamrick hopes new customers continue to play and continue to support golf, he said.

“I’m hoping that it continues to trend, but with everything that is going on, it’s hard to say an absolute,” he said.

Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or summer.jarro@thevillagesmedia.com