“Whether its good times or bad, outdoor is the one department in the store that grows most,” says Anton Klopper of the Kloppers camping, fishing and hunting division he oversees.

While people spend more on luxuries during the good times, when money is tight they buy a tent and accessories to take the family camping. Or they go fishing. “Nowadays, people spend some of the money they save by not booking into a hotel on equipment or accessories to make their camping trips more comfortable.”

Hi-Tec SA MD Mickey Mallett (right) with sales team member Darius Blomerus at Kloppers’ supplier function.

This includes buying outdoor clothing and especially outdoor footwear, which the Free State farmers mainly buy for leisure wear or workwear on their farms, rather than for hiking trips.

Several aisles are stocked full of a wide range of accessories from many brands – he is especially glad that they now have access to some of the sought-after Coleman and Campingaz products from the brands’ new distributor, Liteoptec, who improved delivery and also offers monthly specials.

Cool boxes, again from various suppliers, form a prominent display, as does outdoor braais, including the backyard gas braais that are currently very popular. Weber has a stand-out store within a store display, where they offer the best priced Weber products in the country, says Anton proudly. “Some of our prices are R400 lower than other stores.”

Gordon Stokes of Hi-Tec SA and Bruce Woodroffe of Awesome Tools share a joke during the Kloppers supplier function.

One of the reasons for their success is that they always offer a very competitive price on all products, another is that they carry stock from a variety of suppliers and brands, says Nick Fourie, manager of the outdoor department. That way they offer their customers more of a choice of price categories and quality.

The department’s large floor area is dominated by a display of family-style camping tents from 4-5 different brands – from the large ones with multiple rooms and shade areas, to more basic shelters. These are surrounded by displays of camping furniture, from the bare necessities, to accessories that will transform a tent into a home from home. “We cater for all classes and categories,” says Fourie, explaining that by far the biggest demand is for the bigger tents in which a family can camp in comfort, rather than for hiking.

Anton Klopper and Nick Fourie, manager of the outdoor department.

Fishing is a big revenue contributor and they offer from the top end fishing gear, to the basic. It does especially well in the Cape, where one floor of the Kloppers Sport store in Brackenfell is dedicated to outdoor. “We are one of the few retailers that stock the specialist specimen fishing brand Korda.”

Equipment for rock and surf angling are the most popular in all stores, even in landlocked Bloemfontein, where customers buy their gear for the annual summer holiday along the coast. Even though they pre-order their stock from large suppliers, they visit the annual SAFTAD show to learn about the latest trends and to hear what is popular, says Fourie. “You have to visit SAFTAD if you want to be relevant in the angling trade.” And as Anton jokes, “you have to go and find out what the fish are eating now.”

The only dull spot is their firearms section, which has been adversely affected by the licensing problems and also because certain US ranges are difficult to get, due to policy changes.

Yet, the economy did not affect the hunting market to the extent they expected, even though hunting can be expensive.