VANCOUVER - The Sports Corner is hurting.
Located on Granville St. near Smythe in downtown Vancouver, it normally sells a lot of Vancouver Canuck merchandise. There are Canuck jerseys still displayed everywhere in the store, racks upon racks of them, but many are collecting dust.
The Sports Corner is another example of collateral damage in the National Hockey League lockout that is grinding through its eighth week.
“It's had a huge impact on our business,” store manager Mike Jackson said Tuesday. “We are way down. We are praying they get back to work and we can start selling stuff again. Right now, it is very grim.”
There are two other Sports Corners in the Lower Mainland, one on Robson and another in Abbotsford. Jackson fears the Robson outlet might be forced to close its doors if the NHL winds up cancelling the entire season. Full bargaining resumed Tuesday in New York City after nearly three weeks away from the table. Games have already been scrubbed through the end of November.
“We really need a season,” Jackson emphasized. “We'll survive a shortened season but I think we'll probably have to close the Robson store if there is no season at all. Compared to a normal season when the NHL is going, we're probably down a good 40 per cent.
“We carry the whole NHL but the Canucks are our driving force. Right now, we've had to discount our Canuck jerseys because we have bills to pay. So the effect on us is huge. I say a little prayer every night that they'll reach an agreement.”
The Sports Corner is predominately a jersey, t-shirt and hat store. In the absence of an NHL market, it is trying to survive on its football sales. One window display is devoted mostly to the B.C. Lions with Travis Lulay, Geroy Simon, Adam Bighill and Andrew Harris jerseys front and centre. The Whitecaps also have some window presence along with the NFL, the Vancouver Giants and a bit of Canucks. (Henrik Sedin, Trevor Linden and Pavel Bure jerseys.)
“The NFL is moving well and the Whitecaps were good but their season is done.,” Jackson said. “The B.C. Lions are strong but they only have one or two more games left so we rely big-time on the NHL. If the Canucks had a home game tonight, we'd be really busy, especially from five o'clock on. For Saturday-Sunday games, we're usually busy all day.”
Meanwhile, the Jersey City outlet in Richmond Centre has moved its Canuck display towards the rear of the store and, according to manager Letitia Madden, is receiving a lot of grief from frustrated hockey fans.
“We have a buy-one, get-one-half-price deal going on to move stuff during the lockout and a lot of customers will look at us and laugh and say: 'Like, what's hockey? What's the NHL?' We're getting a lot of that right now,” Madden said. “The lockout has definitely had an impact. I couldn't give you a solid percentage but it's definitely down and down a lot, for sure.
“The B.C. Lions and NFL are our top sellers right now. We've got a much smaller section of Canuck jerseys than normal and I actually made it smaller yesterday. Normally, the Canucks and the NHL would take up the whole front of our store. Now we're making use of other sports teams.”
Cyclone Taylor on Oak Street is doing fine without the NHL. Its core business is hockey equipment so it doesn't rely on jersey sales to survive. Nevertheless, store manager Brent Wynn still has plenty of Canuck jerseys on display, nine racks of them Tuesday, and has no plans to remove them.
“We are selling some jerseys but nowhere nearly what we would be if the Canucks and the NHL were playing,” he said. “With most people, there is apathy at this point in time. They want the NHL back but they're not prepared to buy that jersey and get it 'named-up' until they come back. Once that happens, I'm sure the floodgates will open, at least hopefully.”
Like Cyclone's, the Sports Exchange on Burrard deals mostly in equipment, specializing in hockey and baseball. But the store still has a major display of Canuck jerseys up front and virtually none are sellling. Salesman Mike Vertlieb even looked it up.
“Since the lockout started, we have sold one adult men's jersey in the current style,” he reported, while also noting that Christmas and playoffs are the major selling periods, not November. “People aren't willing to buy any Canuck stuff right now. That's what I've noticed.”
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