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Business Observer Wednesday, Apr. 1, 2020 4 months ago

Knives out: Survival gear stores see surge in sales

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From gas masks and ammo to dehydrated food and medical supplies, it's all flying off shelves.
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Mike Crea has sold a lot of knives lately. Ammunition, too. And he’s all out of gas masks.

Crea's Survive Anything store in Sarasota sells survival and outdoor gear. As COVID-19 concerns grip the world, he’s seen a mix of old and new customers, mostly in their 20s to 40s, come in to buy those items and others on their pandemic shopping lists, from dehydrated food to medical supplies.

Survival gear and related products are seeing a spike in sales in other stores in the region, too. Stores that cater to a range of customers, from ex-military and preppers to outdoor adventurers and regular folks, have seen shelves emptied of certain items.

Crea has some Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, left, but the manufacturer told him it will be 30 days before he’ll get any more. He expects to get some more ammunition in stock sometime, too, and in two or three weeks, some reusable masks are supposed to come in. He’s taking pre-orders for those now. “I’ve been trying to get more stuff, but masks are impossible to get,” he says. “Anything to do with infection control — disinfectant is hard to get. Hopefully I have some stuff coming in soon, but it’s just on order right now.”

‘It seems that nobody wants to come in until something terrible is happening, and then, when something terrible is happening, they all come in at once.’ — Mike Crea, Survive Anything

Crea considers his shop an essential business, but if he’s told to close, he’ll continue to make deliveries to customers. His advice to people who still seek certain items is to call before they come in so they don’t come looking for something he doesn’t have anymore. “If we don’t have it in stock, they’ll have to wait,” he says. “Times are changing. You can’t expect everything to be at your fingertips anymore.”

Like Survive Anything, Jhordan Military Gear in Land O’ Lakes has sold more survival gear lately, including reusable masks, MREs, water purification tablets and knives. 

President and Owner William Matthiew is having trouble re-stocking some items, such as water purification tablets. “I can’t get any until late April because manufacturers don’t have any more,” he says.

His supply of MREs is running low, too. “I’ve had a lot of calls about them,” says Matthiew. Fire starters and medical supply kits have been big sellers, too.

Courtesy. Jhordan Military Gear in Land O’ Lakes has sold more survival gear lately, including reusable masks, MREs, water purification tablets and knives.

At some point, Matthiew may close his store because he’s concerned about getting sick himself. If he does close, people could still place orders through his online store.

Brian Luther, a manager at Sarasota adventure outfitter Environeers, says the biggest difference he’s noticed is what has been selling — and not selling — lately.

Many customers visit the store to buy items for trips. They might be headed on a trip to hike the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, he says, or to other locales worldwide for an outdoor adventure. When travel was curtailed because of coronavirus recently, it slammed the door on that type of business, he says. 

Courtesy. Brian Luther, a manager at Sarasota adventure outfitter Environeers, says items that have been selling include dehydrated food, stoves, fuel for the stoves, water filters and water purification tablets.

Items that have been selling, instead, are dehydrated food, stoves, fuel for the stoves, water filters and water purification tablets. They’re almost out of all of it. Luther says, “We’re down to three packages of air-dried cheese and two packages of milk.”

Before coronavirus hit, Crea was already developing a new concept for Survive Anything. He wants to follow through with the plan to close the store and turn the space into a classroom. He’ll teach first aid, CPR and courses related to body art. He might also sell some select items, like medical supplies, guns and ammo. But it won’t be like it is now, fully stocked with all kinds of survival gear.

It’s challenging to operate a business that fluctuates with the tides of crisis. When a hurricane is about to hit, people flock to the shop. When a pandemic arrives, the shelves are emptied. But when there appears to be no imminent danger, a lull sets in. Crea says, “It seems that nobody wants to come in until something terrible is happening, and then, when something terrible is happening, they all come in at once.”

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