Campers Village began its adventure a century ago when Edmonton was a stretch of untended land to be cleared, planted and built on. Its parent company, Northwest Tent and Awning, supplied settlers in 1921 with basic canvas tents as shelters to live in while they completed this gruelling work. These temporary shelters allowed people to work the land non-stop and create their permanent homes. This was only the beginning of the Campers Village journey of innovation and providing a service for people in need.
Fast forward to the ’60s, when people started to understand the appeal of camping and outdoor adventure. Northwest Tent and Awning was still pumping out practical canvas shelters in bulk, but when people came asking for single tent sales, the company quickly pivoted and put up a storefront to better accommodate the camping craze – and Campers Village was born.
“They started just selling these canvas tents one at a time, and sleeping bags, and then over the years they started to just add more and more products from other suppliers and then our standalone store was created,” says James Schutz, director of marketing. “It’s that kind of entrepreneurial spirit of Alberta to shift and be where the needs are, and adapt and grow to meet the demands of your customers.”
Now, 100 years since the very beginning, Campers Village has had to pivot to serve its customers once again. With the COVID pandemic still affecting our lives and our abilities to gather anywhere in close quarters, the outdoors has been calling, loudly. The pandemic has upset every avenue of business, and Campers Village was no exception, having to rely on online sales and curbside pickup. The added struggle of being a supplier of outdoor equipment, which became hot-ticket items during the pandemic, meant that they faced fears of running out of inventory when the demand skyrocketed.
“There was definitely a run on certain items and some of our suppliers were in good shape and were able to get us the additional products, what we would call ‘fill orders’, about midway through the season. Thankfully, we didn’t cancel any orders,” Schutz says.
“We heard lots of positive feedback, people coming in and saying, ‘Hey, you actually have what I was looking for!’ Because we’re a fairly small company, we’ve been able to shift and pivot a little bit faster, maybe, than others.”
An inside tip for outdoor enthusiasts?
“Boats are really hard to find,” Schutz warns. “Folks that are in the market for a kayak or canoe this year are going to be hard-pressed to find a good selection.”