Many of the outdoor recreation companies in and around Nanaimo, British Columbia, are reporting brisk sales of everything from fishing rods to canoes this summer.

Wholesale Sports just opened the largest outdoor sporting goods store on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo, to take advantage of the growing trends toward outdoor activities in the mid-Island region, according to the Nanaimo Daily News.

Dave Petryk, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver Island, said “staycations” are becoming increasingly popular during the ongoing economic downturn as people turn more to nearby outdoor activities rather than splurge on expensive trips to exotic locations.

“Traditionally, a lot of our tourism on the island usually comes from other parts of British Columbia, Alberta and Washington, but the high Canadian dollar and gas prices are having impacts this year so we’re lucky there’s so much to do around here for the local people who are looking to stay close to home during their vacations,” Petryk said. “Vancouver Island is known as one of the best locations for a variety of outdoor activities in the world.”

In recognition of these growing trends, Wholesale Sports, a Calgary-based outdoor supply retailer, decided to open a 40,000-square-foot store in Nanaimo’s north end, the company’s first facility on the Island.

Wholesale Sports divisional president Chuck Cote, who was in Nanaimo for the store’s official opening Thursday (Aug. 20), said the 30-year-old company that has stores in the U.S. and Canada has grown dramatically despite the struggling economy.

He said Wholesale Sports has expanded from seven to 25 stores across the continent just in the last year and future plans call for a “fairly aggressive” expansion campaign.

“There’s always been a big demand for hunting, fishing and camping supplies and our market research indicates that demand will remain strong,” Cote said.

“It’s certainly not a recession-proof business, but consumers enjoy these activities and many are choosing to take to the outdoors these days instead of taking major trips abroad.”

Rob Thorogood, owner of Nanaimo’s Valhalla Pure Outfitters, said business has been up this summer but speculated it may have more to do with an unusually beautiful summer and the large and dedicated local population of outdoor enthusiasts who are taking advantage.

“Our customers are the ones who would be heading outdoors anyway and that has little to do with the state of the economy,” he said.

“Our stores on Vancouver Island are usually pretty busy because there’s just so much to do here. It’s a great place to be for this kind of business.”

But Bob Izumi, a professional sports fisherman and host of television’s “The Real Fishing Show,” said he has no doubt more people are taking to the outdoors.

“The trends seem to be for more people to spend more time in the outdoors close to home these days, likely because of the state of the economy and the move towards more green living,” he said while visiting the new Wholesale Sports store Thursday on his way to Tofino on a fishing expedition. “People aren’t travelling as far as they used to, but still are spending money on enjoying the great outdoors.”