11/15/2012 11:21 EST | Updated 01/15/2013 05:12 EST

NHL lockout taking toll on Canadian retailers

The NHL lockout is taking a financial toll on some Canadian businesses.

Bob Reaume owns Bob Reaume Sports in Windsor, Ont. He said sales of hockey sweaters are down 30 per cent this year over last.

"It's definitely not helping," Reaume said of the lockout.

He said fans tend to buy more merchandise when the teams are actually playing.

"They look for some apparel to wear. We do a lot of licensed apparel. Fortunately, we’ve got football being played. But hockey is big for us," Reaume said. "We’re probably off a good 30 or 40 per cent on what we would normally sell in hockey apparel. We’d have a lot of jerseys going out on a continual basis – they’re high-ticket items — and that’s just not happening."

At Brian’s Custom Pro Shop, also in Windsor, owner John Frei said he has four sweaters waiting to become customized with players' names and numbers for Christmas gifts. Normally the shop has 25 per week at this time of the season.

Frei said sales of NHL hats, jerseys and t-shirts at his store are down 15 per cent.

"A lot of people are suffering. We’re all taking a big hit on this," he said.

The financial impact of the lockout is largely anecdotal. The Retail Council of Canada doesn't track how much money is spent on NHL merchandise each year.

Reebok is the maker of official NHL jerseys. The company would not provide any financial numbers. However, a spokesperson sent a written statement to CBC Windsor, saying, in part, "we hope an agreement is reached as soon as possible."

"Our NHL business has great momentum, with double digit annual growth, and we expect this upward trend to continue when the lockout ends," the statement continued. "Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to capture the bulk of our business if the matter is resolved as we approach core selling season."

The NHL would not comment on sales.

"We don't give out sales figures. Our policy has been pretty standard in both good times and bad," the NHL's vice president of communications John Dellapina wrote in an email to CBC.

In Kirkland, Que., Alan Pearson owns Raxan Collectibles. Pearson has posted to You Tube a video entitled The NHL Destroyed My Business.

“I’ve run my business for more than 20 years. I’ve been paying royalties. And what do you guys do for the second time in eight years? You’re locked out. NHL and NHL players, I’m trying to make an honest living. You’re killing little people like me. Do you care about people like me?”

Reaume and Frei both said the NHL is going to lose fans. Reaume said sales during this lockout are worse than the last — and that 2004-2005 lockout lasted the entire season.

'Fans tired of this'

"I think the fans are getting tired of this," Reaume said. "It’s tough to figure why these guys can’t figure this out. We can’t cure the problem. We can’t force them to play."

Reaume said diehard NHL fans are keeping sales afloat. Frei isn't so sure.

"We’re going to see repercussions on this one. They’re going to lose some fan base. Even some of the diehards are getting frustrated," he said.

The Windsor-Essex region, which is just a few kilometres and minutes away from Detroit, stands to lose a lot of money at the hands of the NHL lockout.

Tourism Windsor, Essex, Pelee Island vice president of tourism programs Lynette Bain said the region was looking at a $1-million boost to the economy based on the NHL Winter Classic alone. That annual outdoor game scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, at Michigan Stadium, 45 minutes away from Windsor in Ann Arbor, Mich., was scrapped earlier this month.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis pegged the loss closer to $2 million.

Even beer giant Molson Coors says the NHL lockout has reduced beer sales across Canada for its marquee brands.

The brewer said that once the lockout ends, Molson Coors will seek financial compensation from the league over the negative impact that a lack of games has had on the hockey league sponsor.