Despite all the uncertainty of the COVID-19 economy in Prince George, with local businesses being forced to shut down and people now working from their homes, not everybody is feeling the pinch just yet.
Business has been booming at K.K.S. Tactical Supplies, a gun and ammunition store in the Nicholson Centre. They’ve had a steady stream of customers lately and store owner Cassy Premack expects that to continue as people react to the falling Canadian dollar and get ready for the spring hunting and fishing seasons.
“It’s been a lot busier than normal and our sales have tripled since everybody’s gone home,” said Premack. “We sell firearms and ammunition, so it’s been pretty busy, and we also do hunting tags and fishing licences and that starts up again April 1.
“All of our semi-automatic restricted weapons sold almost immediately within the first week (of the COVID-19 pandemic). Everybody is looking for a gun or ammunition and part of it is the dollar crashing, so the cost of ammunition is going up in the next two weeks. Most of our products are imported from the United States so when our dollar is worth so much less than theirs the cost of goods in Canada goes up.”
The store’s distributors in Canada called Premack a week ago and told her their importing costs were about to jump between five and 25 per cent. There are some items they usually order that can’t find anywhere. Twelve-gauge target load shells used for skeet shooting and for defence against grizzly bear attacks have been hard to get and several brands of hunting rifle cartridges like .303 British and .270 Winchester are in short supply.
“We’ve been trying to order more ammunition but it’s also an election year in the States and for whatever reason they all panic and buy ammo,” said Premack.
“It happens every four years, every election year. Now, with it being COVID-19 crisis and an election year and the dollar crashing there’s a big fear there not going to be ammunition come September for hunting season.”
The store also sells airsoft equipment and sponsors local airsoft team shooting events, which are all canceled due to COVID-19.
In January, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a plan to ban military-style assault weapons and the government is also considering a partial handgun ban , which has driven up sales in guns shops across the country.
“There’s a lot of distrust of the government and a lot of people are worried about an emergency act and the prime minister having full control,” said Premack. “ He’s been so blatantly against firearm ownership in Canada, so there’s some fear.”
Premack and her husband Dave are the only employees of the store and they don’t qualify for most federal government incentives to help small businesses ride out the COVID-19 crisis.
“As much as the government has done for employees they haven’t done very much for store owners,” she said. “We might qualify for $500 a month through their COVID emergency fund but that won’t cover our lease payment, so we’re just trying to stay open as long as we can.
“We sell hunting tags and fishing licences and that’s a food source. Depending on how look at it, anything that supports fishing and agriculture, they said, is an essential service. As we go forward there will be more layoffs (in the community)and less disposable income and our income will start to go down from there. We’re new, we just opened in June so we’re not sitting on a lot of capital, we’re sitting on a lot of product, and if we can’t make it through we’ll have to close the doors.”