Universe Satellite Sales navigated well so far: Supply questions impacting many businesses

November 26, 2021, 3:18 pm
Sierra D'Souza Butts, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Stan Langley, the owner of Rocanville’s Universe Satellite Sales, which is one of the main dealers for snowmobiles in Southeast Saskatchewan and Southwest Manitoba.

Restrictions around Covid-19 affected businesses very differently. Some lost a lot of business because of restrictions, others benefited by changes in lifestyles and spending habits.

Rocanville’s Universe Satellite Sales is one business that was able to navigate the Covid roadblocks well and thrive within the last year, however manager Stan Langley says that the business is currently having supply chain issues due to a shortage of equipment from the United States.

“Our year is June to June,” he says. “Last year was our best year we ever had and this year we could be going into one of our poorer years because we can’t get product to sell. We went into the pandemic with a lot of inventory, we bought a lot of inventory from other dealers in the spring and that’s saving us a bit this year with the snowmobile sales, but there’s a lot of our product in the recreation business that we just can’t get,” Langley says.

Why the shortage?

“The manufacturers just can’t get the product built for the demand that’s out there,” says Langley.

“Most of the manufacturers can’t build to fulfil what the owners will require in the spring. That goes for all manufacturers, That’s not just Arctic Cat, that’s Polaris, Ski-Doo, everybody is just having trouble filling the demand.”

“Some of the product we sell is American made, some of it, and they can’t supply everything the Americans want so they just stopped shipping to Canada until they can fill the demand in the States,” he says.

“That’s affecting me a lot, because now I have to go buy from dealers across the line and pay a whole lot more money for the stuff, in order to fulfill some of my commitments.”

Some retailers are coming off a tough couple of years and hoping for a strong Christmas season, and Universe Satellite is no different.

“With Christmas, if people are buying small stuff then we’ve got a huge inventory, so there won’t be any supply issue there. We bought a ton of clothing and other products last spring at a 60 per cent discount. It’s hung up on the shelves and it’s 60 per cent off for the consumers as well. We have a lot of clothing and a lot of parts in stock so I hope that will keep everyone going.”

What does he hope for this season?

“Sales are going to be down for sure, but I hope for lots of snow and everybody gets out riding their snowmobiles, and that we get a few repairs. That will keep us going with no problem at all.”

During the pandemic, Langley says the biggest challenges his business faced were availability of product.

“Availability of product was a problem but also dealing with all the Covid rules. There’s a lot of rules, there’s so many rules that we don’t know what rule you fall under.”

“Normally we would have an open house this time of year where we would serve beef on a bun or buffalo on a bun. We would have 300 to 400 people go through our doors in a day and that was a big day for us, but everyone has different ideas on how that would work. You pretty much have to say okay I better not have an open house because I’m not sure how to interpret the rules,” he says.

At the beginning of the pandemic, most retail stores hit a huge decrease in sales but for Universe Satellite, it was a peak time for business.

“The pandemic, as bad as it’s been for a lot of people, for the recreational dealers whether it was camper trailers or snowmobiles, ATVs, side-by-sides, those businesses have thrived in the last year and a half. “Where we are seeing it happen now is we are going to see the sales let down a bit because of the lack of product. But for the people who went into the pandemic with a lot of product, the pandemic helped a lot of dealers in recreation,” Langley says.

“The people that were taking kids to hockey games, going on holidays, going to baseball tournaments, going to the city, all that stuff was done. So they needed a recreational product in order to do stuff with their kids on their own.”

“We’re pretty fortunate here to have the quad trails, snowmobile trails and stuff like that. A lot of people that never snowmobiled or quadded before, got into the sport during that time in the pandemic. I thought we would see some of those people who got into it when the rules backed off and they would sell their products back, but they stayed with the industry and were actually enjoying the sport. It’s opened it up to a lot of people to know what else there is to do.”

Although Langley’s business is doing well, he says he’s aware that the pandemic has affected others.

“On the other side, I do think it has hurt a lot of people who were involved with minor hockey, stuff like that because a lot of people who missed it for a year then it’s really hard to get back into it after you’ve been out of it for a year or so.”