Podcast: Sports retailers glide to record sales, ski hills suffering, immigrant entrepreneur pays it forward

In this Behind the Headlines podcast episode, OBJ publisher Michael Curran speaks with OBJ editors David Sali and Peter Kovessy about some of the week’s biggest local business stories.

This is an edited transcript of the panel discussion. To hear the full interview, please watch the video above. Prefer an audio version of this podcast? Listen to it on SoundCloud or Spotify

CURRAN: The story of the week is certainly the second state of emergency in Ontario and what that means for local retailers. What were you hearing from business owners, Dave?

SALI: There is sense amongst shop owners that the shutdown rules aren’t being applied evenly, especially when it comes to big box stores who are allowed to remain open and sell whatever they want. One issue that came up repeatedly was if you’re only supposed to be buying groceries, then only essential items should be available to customers to encourage them to shop more locally for other items. 

The ski hills are also feeling singled out by the government as they are forced to remain closed while toboggan hills and skating rinks are allowed to remain open. Operators like Calabogie Peaks say they are losing millions of dollars in revenue, which is a devastating situation for their business.

CURRAN: Not all of the news this week was doom and gloom. One fascinating aspect has been the record sales some outdoor equipment companies are experiencing – Peter, tell us about that. 

KOVESSY: Demand for cross-country ski equipment has gone through the roof, with retailers such as Kunstadt Sports and Bushtukah recording one of the best seasons ever despite the lack of snow on the ground. Kunstadt sold $1 million worth of cross-country skis before it had even snowed. The rise in demand and need to pivot to curbside pickup has also led many businesses to optimize their e-commerce, leaving some retailers feeling even more resilient now that they can reach customers efficiently online. 

CURRAN: Dave, we also heard about a local immigrant entrepreneur who is trying to pay it forward to the community. Tell us about that story?

SALI: Karla Briones is a very well-known name in the Ottawa business community. After moving to Canada from Mexico with her family at the age of 18, she went on to own a Freshii restaurant and a couple of Global Pet Food stores, so she has a lot of expertise to share about moving to a new country and starting a business. She has set up an online series of modules to assist fellow immigrant entrepreneurs on their journey, creating video tutorials around forming a business plan, securing financing and hiring the right employees.