Leading up to Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, SNEWS is previewing new trends and products you’ll see at the trade show in Salt Lake City, Jan. 22-26. Today, we take a look at some of the latest in some leading accessory categories. All these stories also can be found in the print or digital flipbook edition of our Planning Guide.
There are hundreds of outdoor product categories at Winter Market — a few too many to preview here. But we’ve picked up on some trending accessory sectors where you can find innovation, changes or significant growth.
More for yogis
Yoga is making up a greater share of the product mix at Outdoor Retailer, as outdoor companies target the category for a growth in sales.
Nathalie Binda, vice president of marketing for Lole, said yoga has become so popular within the industry because it ties into other activities. She noted 16.3 million people are practicing yoga, many of whom are using it to become more physically fit and flexible for other activities, such as running.
“Yoga has become a lifestyle,” Binda said.
Lole brings its sexy signature style to its Warrior Tank (MSRP $58) and Oversea Yoga Pant (MSRP $100), which can move from the studio to the street. Both pieces are made of the company’s 2nd Skin Pure fabric, a blend of organic cotton, Tencel and elastane. The yoga pant is the “new blue jean,” Binda said, in a legging style that can be worn on its own as a fashion piece.
Lucy Activewear introduces its new Perfect Booty Pant (MSRP $108), which has strategically placed mesh panels that smooth and lift a woman’s butt to give it a better shape. To tie in with that design, Lucy offers its Perfect Core Halter (MSRP $65), which has mesh panels that wrap from the front of the body around to the sides to remind yogis to keep their core engaged.
Even big companies like The North Face are getting in on the action. TNF brings its new Tadasana Collection, including the Wrap-Ture Tunic, a 95 percent cotton/5 percent elastane knit French terry with a longer length and thumbholes. In yoga footwear, TNF debuts the women’s Skinny Mule comfy flats, which feature a puffy outer and grippy outsole.
Hi-tech goggle gear
Today’s snow goggle has moved beyond the realm of accessory item.
The latest models, sporting HD cameras and GPS tracking, are costing consumers north of $600 — not quite a tack-on piece of gear.
Still, the advancements are good for retailers, manufacturers say, because the technology “wow factor” is pulling customers into stores to check it out.
At Winter Market, you’ll see brands like Zeal Optics, Scott Sports and Smith Optics working with Recon Instruments to introduce beefed up GPS models, plus the spread of integrated goggle HD video capture.
“Our goal moving ahead is to drive these technology costs down to make it more affordable, so we can get more people into the category,” said Joe Prebich, director of marketing at Zeal Optics. The company recently debuted a $450 version of its GPS model, shaving $200 off the price tag.
Another strategy for brands is to make a single goggle as multifunctional as possible — giving consumers more bang for their buck. If an HD camera is included, for example, not only is it easier for the user to operate with less gear, it also saves them from spending money on a separate camera. The latter could put some pressure on the likes of action camera brands GoPro and Contour.
In addition, snow goggle manufacturers are concentrating efforts to improve their interchangeable lens systems on these high-tech goggles. Because, let’s face it, consumers aren’t going to buy two $600 pair of goggles just for different weather conditions. The trends here are moving toward rimless and semi-rimless, easy-to-change options, as well as better photochromic technology, where a single lens adjusts its shading automatically to changing light.
Shaping up in snowshoes
Snowshoe sales fell by more than 20 percent last winter, but unlike skiing and snowboarding, where both sales and participation suffered due to the lack of snow, participation in snowshoeing went up.
About 4.1 million people in the United States went snowshoeing during the 2011/2012 season, up 7.5 percent from the previous winter, according to SIA’s snow sports participation report.
Reasoning for the anomaly vary — perhaps there were more rentals, some carry-over interest from previous big snow years, or, frustrated with little snow, skiers and snowboarders went snowshoeing instead. Whatever the cause, manufacturers and retailers agree better snow will be needed this year to keep the participation figures up.
“Snowshoeing is more of a recreational activity than an enthusiast activity,” said Connor Folley, marketing manager for Atlas Snowshoes. “So it wasn’t a surprise to see sales down with a lack of snow, but people were still getting out there, whether it was just to get outdoors, or I think there’s a growing ‘winter fitness’ element as well.”
Cautiously approaching this season, expect snowshoe manufacturers at Winter Market to work on building the participation gains with more entry-level and accessible products, including children’s options.
In addition, brands are increasingly going after the fitness market, with slimmed down, ergonomic snowshoe designs that are easier to walk in due to smaller surface areas. These are meant for neighborhoods and local parks, where the snow isn’t as deep as in the backcountry.
“The amount of people who identify themselves as ‘fitness walkers’ is a significantly large group, so it makes sense for us to target the category,” Folley said.
That isn’t to say there won’t be technical advancements on the show floor for serious backcountry and competitive racing snowshoes. There, brands are focusing on lightweight measures, including more carbon fiber and direct-mount versions (that forgo bindings and attach to the underside of shoes) to cut down on weight.
The popularity of puffies has put fleece insulation in the back seat for a few years, but the category has not been forgotten. Brands are playing around with new silhouettes and re-engineered fabrics to revive the category.
“Fleece has really been taking a dive,” said Isis’ Courtney Lewis. “We’re seeing what we can do to give a fresh look to it.” Isis gives its new Ainsley Fleece pullover (MSRP $59) a flattering feminine silhouette with a buttery-soft fleece fabric, a cowl neck and draw cord.
Other companies are taking the more technical route.
Patagonia updates its Regulator technical fleece collection (R2, R3 and R4) with improved patterning, sonic stitch seam construction, better zippers and chin flaps, plus hybridized materials.
Companies continue to explore other materials in softshell offerings, such as Sherpa Adventure Gear with its Thorong Jacket, a Polartec Neoshell softshell with a helmet-compatible hood and redesigned thumbholes for maximum mobility without pinching.
Fleece wasn’t always synthetic. Icebreaker brings its trademark Realfleece, made with merino wool, to its new Legend Insulator midlayer. The piece mixes its Realfleece 320 and Bodyfit 200 fabrics that can be worn with or without an outer layer.
Outdoor Research offers its women’s Decibelle Jacket and the men’s Bullwhell Jacket. Both are flannel pieces with lots of stretch, a DWR coating and a zip front. On the women’s piece there are pleats in the back and a stand-up collar with a hood.
Beyond water-resistant down
There will be no shortage of chest thumping surrounding water-resistant down this Winter Market.
Just about every top brand has picked sides by choosing a supplier for the treated insulation — be it DownTek, DriDown or Resist-Down. And show goers will hear every play on words imaginable with propriety names like Marmot’s new DownDefender or The North Face’s ProDown.
There will be other notable insulation and fabric news at Outdoor Retailer, including introductions from Polartec and Gore-Tex that aim to increase breathability, but maintain protection from the elements, and Primaloft’s debut of stretch insulation.
Polartec takes direct aim at all those popular puffies, claiming a lack of breathability in current products due to the tightly woven outer fabrics needed to keep both down and synthetic insulations contained.
Polartec’s new Alpha synthetic insulation is designed to be self-contained through a high-loft, lightweight knit construction that can be sandwiched between two more breathable layers without escaping. And because of its continuous-filament-like construction, minimal quilting is required to hold the insulation in place, allowing increased design flexibility. More than a dozen brands, including Mammut, Rab, The North Face and Westcomb, plan to debut new products at Winter Market containing Polartec Alpha.
During the past few years, Gore-Tex has concentrated more on its lightweight and breathable fabrics, such as Paclite and Active, responding to increased competition in the category. For Winter Market 2013, the brand returns focus to Gore-Tex Pro, upgrading the heavy-duty membrane.
Through a 100 percent PTFE, three-layer construction with a new micro-grid backer, officials say the new generation Gore-Tex Pro increases breathability by 28 percent without sacrificing waterproofness. More than 30 U.S. and European brands, including Arc’teryx, Outdoor Research and Patagonia, will adopt the technology in new products shown at Winter Market.
Finally, it seems like every outdoor fabric is boasting stretch these days, why shouldn’t your insulation stretch along with it? PrimaLoft debuts its new 4 Flex Technology, a synthetic insulation engineered with elastomeric properties designed to provide 25 precent more stretch in four directions without sacrificing warmth or softness.
These are just a few of the new products to debut at the show. Be sure to check out many more new products and trends in the O.R. Daily, published live at the show, and available digital format each following day of print on SNEWS.
–David Clucas and Ana Trujillo