Originally opened as a showroom for Hala Gear inflatable SUPs, the Hala GearSpace in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is filling with more and more whitewater gear by the day. Founder Peter Hall in January bought the online portion of Colorado Kayak Supply to give his business an edge and bring the brick-and-mortar mentality to the online experience.
"We wanted it to be a river store, but it's pretty irresponsible to open one in our store since our river only really flows between two and four months a year," Hall said. "The acquisition allows us to carry the depth of products without taking huge inventory risks and not being able to sell it."
One of Hall's current challenges is reconciling the two different names. But regardless of what it's called in the future, customers come from all over to visit Hala's flagship store, and friends and locals know where to find the prototypes available for free test rides.
What's not so hot right now?
Right now, Hall is having trouble selling high-end NRS rafts costing upwards of $3,600. On the other hand, high-end paddleboards priced above $1,000 are still selling.
"It's maybe because people have a hard time telling the difference between a higher-quality and lower-quality raft, whereas it's easier to tell with a paddleboard," Hall said. "The performance benefits aren't as immediately apparent."
In terms of number of transactions, rentals are dominating at Hala GearSpace. "As the economy changes, more and more people want to rent instead of buy, and that's across industries," Hall said. "Some people get hooked and try to buy."
Sales of inflatable kayaks and tubes also are soaring. Hall attributes the success to those as being gateway activities to the river. Once people get accustomed to the water, Astral and NRS are the top-selling brands, and not just because Hall stocks them the most.
"Astral has such a good name in whitewater so people trust it," Hall said. "NRS makes really good products at a really affordable price."
Lastly, accessories like dry bags and boxes, cam straps, squirt guns, cheap sunglasses, lifejackets, kayak skirts, and more will always be popular. "A big piece of what we do is selling customers accessories for their main thing," Hall said.