CORNWALL, P.E.I. — Online sales have always been an important part of Marco Thorne's business.
But with COVID-19 impacting the economy, he's seen online sales play a more prominent role at his business - API Hockey PROS in Cornwall, P.E.I. In fact, Thorne says sales have spiked from one-quarter (at best) to one-half of business.
"I would say since July, I would compare it to the Christmas rush," said Thorne, who started the business nearly 22 years ago - first in Wellington, then to the Confederation Court Mall, and now in Cornwall.
API Hockey PROS is one of 25 Canadian businesses recognized by eBay for its online sales presence as an inductee in the company's Seller Hall of Fame program. The 25 businesses signify this year being eBay's 25th as a company.
Four other Atlantic Canadian businesses were also recognized by eBay this week:
- Halifax's The Binnacle, a boating supply store;
- Sweetbuy_n_buy (Edie Jamieson) in Bedford sells thrift store items from her home;
- Truro's Trevor Otterson of Thebanknoteman buys and sells coins, banknotes and trading cards;
- and Keeley Wamback (Keeksboutique) in Bridgewater also sells thrift items.
Thorne has been selling items on eBay for the past 15 years. He said it is a valuable way to help liquidate excess inventory at the P.E.I. store. Besides online sales, the store has walk-in traffic shopping locally for hockey equipment and sticks, jerseys, team jackets and gloves, to name a few items. Recently, Thorne has also become the tennis ball supplier for Tennis P.E.I. as well as a supplier for pickleball equipment.
Even so, ice hockey is his main lifeline. He sharpens skates, and has a strong connection with minor hockey, especially the North River Minor Hockey Association.
Like many businesses, API Hockey PROS temporarily shut down in March due to COVID-19 provincial requirements and reopened in the summer. But Thorne was still at the business every day filling online orders. Sometimes on a Monday, Thorne will have 20 orders or so waiting to be processed. He mainly ships in Canada and the U.S., but he has also filled orders for customers as far away as Europe, including places like Finland and Russia.
"Sometimes it's cheaper for them to pay shipping and the product cost here than to buy it over there," he explained. Filling one order can be tedious and take up to 30 minutes, especially when you consider that the shipping address has to be verified, the order's legitimacy checked, labels printed, products located and placed in a box that fits, and then taken to Canada Post on time for shipping.
The online experience has led to long work days, sometimes beyond business hours when he has to respond to customer inquiries. But Thorne said he would be a fool not to embrace the online aspect of his business moving forward. And it helps that Thorne loves what he does, and is passionate about the business and the products he sells.
"If I wasn't passionate and I didn't look forward to coming into work and doing the job, I don't think I'd be here right now. I just wouldn't. So, people come to me once in a while and ask me for advice, and just about to start a business. I make sure to tell them that. You know, it's got to be a passion because sometimes it's going to take all of you."