This golf pushcart retailer saw sales plummet 30% during the US-China trade war. Then COVID-19 made it an unexpected winner of the pandemic.

  • Oregon-based small business ProActive Sports is the American distributor of Clicgear, a Chinese-made golf pushcart described as the "Rolls Royce of pushcarts."
  • At the height of the US-China trade war, the US slapped a 25% tariff on ProActive's products, and the company saw sales tank 30% as it had to raise prices to accommodate the new tax.
  • Less than a year later, the business is suddenly booming.
  • The company has found itself an unexpected winner of the coronavirus pandemic, since many courses have banned rental pushcarts and golfers have had to buy their own.
  • Business Insider spoke to ProActive owner Steve Skinner, who put his whirlwind year into perspective.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

While the coronavirus pandemic has largely crippled America's economy, there have been some unexpected winners in the COVID-19 era — from baking yeast to the Nintendo Switch. 

The golf pushcart industry is another one of these pandemic successes. With many courses pausing rentals of golf carts and pushcarts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many golfers have started buying their own.

Business Insider recently spoke to Steve Skinner, owner of The ProActive Sports Group, a small business in Oregon which has the exclusive American distribution rights for Clicgear, a Chinese product described as the "Rolls Royce of pushcarts."

ProActive is one of many American retailers that have had an unprecedented year, impacted first by the US-China trade war, and then a global pandemic that brought the economy to a standstill.

Skinner explained just how measured success is in 2020, with the company only now recovering from being slapped with tariffs, and now struggling to keep up with the country's newfound demand for its products.

Last year ProActive saw sales of Clicgear pushcarts dive 30% when they were made subject to a 25% import tariff by President Donald Trump's administration, and the company had to raise prices to accommodate the new tax, Skinner said.

In December, Skinner flew to China in an attempt to negotiate a better price with Clicgear's manufacturers, visiting the company's factory in Guangdong province.

His Chinese colleagues were "not at all" helpful on that front, Skinner said, and he returned to the US on December 17.

Less than two weeks later, the city of Wuhan — located some 600 miles north of Guangdong — would report its first case of what we now know as the novel coronavirus, which would go on to infect millions of people around the world.

By April, the number of people under some form of lockdown was more than the number of people who were alive during World War II.

At first, the pandemic looked to be the second of two major blows to Skinner's company in 2020. 

It was a scary moment for the company in early spring, Skinner said, when more than half of America's golf courses were closed, with much of the nation under lockdown orders. 

At the end of the day, Skinner says he's just glad his company is managing to stay afloat during this uncertain time. 

"We feel very lucky just to be back to normal," he said. 

Skinner said he realizes that everything could change in an instant depending on how governments respond to the pandemic going forward. 

"It all depends on what happens with lockdowns," he said. "Right now, golf has seen a huge uptick in participation, with new golfers coming in and golfers who quit coming back. Rounds played are way up there, and that's because courses are open. But if they start closing down courses again, that's all going to drop off."

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