Dec 16, 2020

Thompson Manitoba

Nickel City Motors: A Year Like No Other

Story by Sarah Ivey Photo by Volker Beckmann

While most stores are facing hardships and declining sales, Nickel City Motors is experiencing a year like never before.

Steven Grandbois, who co-owns Nickel City Motors with his sister Wendy Grandbois, says their shop is busier than ever this year. Snowmobiling has always been popular in Thompson but with COVID-19, its popularity has grown. Other leisure activities have shut down, and there’s less competition. The increased demand for winter fun has become an inventory issue, leaving the brother-sister duo on the lookout for more snowmobiles.

“We ordered 160 snowmobiles,” says Steven. “That’s what we started out with for the whole year and we’re almost sold out.”

Nickel City Motors isn’t the only snowmobile dealership selling out, he adds. There’s a shortage Canada-wide and even extending into the United States.

“We were going to send a semi-truck to Alberta to pick up more snowmobiles, but they’re all out, too.”  

Steven says increased outdoor activity is the reason behind the record sales of snowmobiles, parts, and winter clothing.

“It’s a good problem, don’t get me wrong. It’s better than the alternative where we have tons of inventory and nothing is selling, but what are we going to sell for the next two or three months? We can’t get any more snowmobiles.”

Nickel City Motors orders snowmobiles from Ski-Doo almost one year in advance each winter season. They placed this winter’s order at the end of February 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 closures began in Manitoba. Before Steven knew it, it was too late to order more inventory.  

Ski-Doo and other brands are scrambling to build more snowmobiles to keep up with the demand, but they’re running out of parts, he says.

Like other businesses across Manitoba, Nickel City Motors didn’t know what to expect of this unpredictable year. Caught by surprise and unsure of what to do, Steven says they had to hope for the best. Their inventory shortage surprised them.

“How do you know that people are going to be buying? Even the factories didn’t think people would. The factories were worried that it was going to go the other way. Of course there’s no crystal ball, but it turned out pretty fortunate for all the recreation dealers in Canada to be in the business we’re in,” says Steven.

2020 has kept his business busy, and Steven predicts similar years to follow due to COVID-19. “People will continue to spend time and money on outdoor activities as a way of getting out of the house,” he says. Many people have turned to outdoor activities to keep busy throughout the isolation of COVID-19. Steven says snowmobiling has always been a popular means of travel and winter fun in Thompson and surrounding communities.

“It’s like having a Chevy in the driveway—but people have two or three snowmobiles. We’re blessed to be able to have something like [snowmobiling] because the alternative is sitting inside.”  

Nickel City Motors’ inventory falls under essential, so customers can still purchase in-store. Steven says they most often sell to people from the surrounding area, but they also have customers from as far as Nunavut. Due to their wide geographic range of customers, Nickel City Motors frequently sells over the phone as well as online.

The shop may be sold out of snowmobiles, but they have plenty of other winter equipment for sale. To browse Nickel City Motors’ inventory online, visit nickelcitymotors.com

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