There’s no denying it’s been a long, harsh winter. But contrary to popular belief — and good news for sporting goods stores — not all Iowans hibernate during cold-weather months.
“Having snow on the ground or the amount of snowfall we get affects activity more than the temperature,” said Kevin McConnell, manager at Geoff’s Bike & Ski in Iowa City.
“People are still willing to get outside because you generate so much heat doing activities like downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.”
Stores such as Geoff’s, open for eight years, have tried to find the perfect marriage of products to weather seasonal shopping. While cycling — recreational, fitness and competitive — is the majority of their business, outdoor winter sports gear has been a nice complement, McConnell said.
Geoff’s offers downhill ski equipment, snowboards and snowboarding gear, and cross-country skiing — both skate and classic — equipment. Each winter they move out half of their bike inventory to make way for this equipment.
“We usually phase our skiing stock out a week after spring break to capture those customers that go on skiing vacations. But if we have a good snow, we leave it out longer,” McConnell said.
McConnell said the increasing popularity of cross-country skiing has propelled winter equipment sales. He noted the there are two groomed cross-country ski trails — with the prospect of two additional groomed trails next winter season — in Iowa City.
And while cycling tapers off in the winter months, McConnell said they still do a decent amount of bike business through the winter months. The reason is threefold.
“There is actually a handful of winter cycling events,” McConnell said, noting the cyclocross season goes through December. And fat bikes — bikes with four- to five-inch tires — have increased in popularity over the past five years, he added.
“Fat bikes are designed to be ridden on mixed conditions and are really driving the winter riding business,” he said. Plus, he said, there are a lot more products — gloves, shoes and clothing — that make winter riding more comfortable.
“The gear is becoming more technical,” McConnell said. “That helps with our customer traffic in the winter.”He added that serious cyclists are getting their bikes tuned up before the riding season hits.
“It’s the best time to get stuff worked on when our labor schedule is still relaxed,” he said.
McConnell said repairs and general maintenance are a big part of the business at Geoff’s. He said this season, perhaps more than ever, he is warning cyclists to be extremely careful of the conditions of the road.
“There are some potholes out there that can eat up a bike wheel,” he said.
At Play It Again Sports, owner Gabe Loesch said that, despite the brutal winter, business has been up. But as the weather gets nicer, his business steadily will pick up.
Loesch said he will bump staff from five to seven employees in the warmer weather months to deal with increased customer traffic.“We get a lot of people coming in when the weather gets nicer as they have cleaned out their garage and they want to trade in and upgrade their equipment,” he said.