Sports stores equipped for spring

By Lindsey Richmond

As the snow melts and temperatures climb, local sporting good stores are waiting for a boom in their sales. But this year store shelves won’t be stocked with the usual sporting equipment. Instead, golf clubs, hybrid bikes and clothing are the expected top sellers.

Tommy and Lefebvre on Bank Street is just putting the last of its spring equipment on to the floor. Freddi Rodier, assistant store manager, says that over the last five years golf has become the sport most people are buying equipment for.

“It started with Tiger Woods and it has just kept on going,” she says. “It is now a sport all ages play, and a lot more women are getting involved.”

The golf section at Tommy and Lefebvre testifies to the change seen in who plays the sport. Women’s golf clubs, flared khakis and fashionable golf shoes are the most prominent displays. Robyn Beadury, golf manager at the store, says the growing popularity of the Ladies Professional Golf Tour (LPGA) has seen women buying golf equipent more than ever.

“The LPGA is on TV more and the clothing is becoming far more fashionable,” said Beadury.

Down the road at Elgin Street Sports, manager Chris Risdon says his store does not carry golf equipment, but adds that he answers a lot of calls for the products. Risdon says Woods isn’t the only reason golf is popular.

“Famous NHL and NBA players all play golf,” he says. “This makes people want to play too.”

Risdon says his store has also seen a shift in customer buying patterns. Rugby and soccer equipment are becoming more popular than other traditional sports. He credits the change to the high cost of equipment for football and cutbacks in funding for sports at the high school and university levels. Risdon says rugby and soccer are more cost efficient and that participation levels are growing.

“We have seen a new crowd of people shopping this spring,” says Risdon. “More women and kids are playing soccer and rugby. The audience is growing.”

Sports enthusiasts are no longer looking just for equipment when they go shopping.

Risdon says there is a big market for what people wear during their chosen activity. He thinks comfort plays a big role in choosing clothes.

“Everybody wants to be comfortable working out. But some companies are still learning this.” said Risdon.

Clothing is also popular at Tommy and Lefebvre. “What people wear when they do the sport is big,” says Rodier.

While some sports are new to the spotlight, biking stays popular by changing with the trends. Manager of Foster’s Sports, Melody Johnson, says every year a new type of bike becomes the most popular.

This year hybrid bikes, designed for cruising around the city in comfort, are in demand.

While each store has a particular item that is the most popular, all agree the economy has made it hard to predict results for the coming season. A recent Ottawa Citizen article indicated many stores specializing in basic sports like tennis and jogging are losing business to a growing market of extreme sports like rock-climbing and kayaking.

But at Tommy and Lefebvre, where extreme merchandise is sold, Rodier says there’s no way to tell what will or will not sell.

“The whole economy is down,” she says. “With everything going on in the world today, we have no idea what the future holds in sales.”