Retail sales data, according to an expert

Julia Clark Day is a number cruncher and she has insight into the current realities and future possibilities for retailers in the outdoor industry.
Julia Clark Day, NPD Group executive director, holding a big fish

One of Julia Day's passions is getting outside to go fishing. Day has more than 20 years of experience analyzing sales trends.

Don't get discouraged by the ongoing closures of sporting goods stores and other retailers because according to one expert, retail is making a comeback.

Julia Clark Day, executive director of business development at NPD Group, is a number cruncher. With more than 20 years of experience analyzing the sports and outdoor recreation trends, you could say she's an expert. On Wednesday, Day presented encouraging retail sales data during a Camber Outdoors-hosted webinar. She said that overall retail sales are up about two percent and e-commerce is up about  10 percent across all industries. 

In the $19 billion outdoor industry, sales are down by three percent over the last year, but only down 1.5 percent over the last three months and then up 5 percent this May. It's trending up, in large part because of sports specialty e-commerce's rise, up 27 percent this May.

Based on the group’s research, Day said a few things are absolutely clear in the outdoor industry: that consumers will continue to seek experiences, that sustainability and social responsibility are increasing as purchase drivers, and that diversity and inclusivity remains at the top of consumers’ minds, particularly as women’s business trends positive. Here are a few top takeaways from her presentation.


Spending on cruises, plane tickets, national parks entrance fees, and concert tickets is up, which leads Day to believe that consumer spending has shifted to creating memories.

That’s why travel bags, fanny packs, and accessories are getting snapped up, along with products in the multi-use and lifestyle categories as more people incorporate the outdoors in their daily life. Sales of apparel (outerwear tops, sweatshirts, woven shirts, active bottoms, pants, jeans, and underwear) is up and growing.

Apparel brands standing out in outdoor specialty include:

But Day said footwear is lackluster with some bright spots (down 1 percent in outdoor specialty) and the higher-ticket equipment is struggling. 

On the other hand, sales of climbing gear are up 10 percent and cycling is up two percent.

“We can call climbing the new happy hour and cycling the new golf,” Day said. “Really, it’s becoming a social currency.”

prAna's sustainable packaging: Blue denim prAna shirt rolled and tied with raffia

PrAna packages products using minimal waste and in this case, a single piece of raffia.


One in three buyers rate sustainability as extremely important in their purchasing decisions, according to NPD Group.

“As consumers, we are starting to think about what we can replace and what we can buy that will keep for the long term,” Day said.

The top five selling products in dollars sold are Thule car racks, portable YETI coolers, and wrist instruments. The top five selling products in units sold are GU Stroopwafel, Skratch labs electrolyte powder, YETI replaceable tumbler top, Hydro Flask replaceable screw top, and GU chews.

“One of the most helpful things that retailers can do is educate consumers on everything that you’re currently doing about sustainability,” Day said. “The more you can put in place and educate consumers through the process, the further ahead you will be.”

More brands are catching on to the sustainability movement, and deploying innovative ways to say goodbye to the polybag.

As part of REI's Force of Nature campaign, women of all shapes, sizes, and colors are featured in the co-op's branding and messaging.

As part of REI's Force of Nature campaign, women of all shapes, sizes, and colors are featured in the co-op's branding and messaging.

Inclusivity and diversity

Companies with female-focused brands resonate with consumers, including the millennial and Generation Z consumers, Day said. Think The North Face’s She Moves Mountains, REI’s Force of Nature, and Athleta’s Power of She campaigns.

"All these campaigns that brands within the industry, that retailers within the industry have targeted to say the outdoors is a level playing field, the outdoors is welcoming to everybody, all types of people, all types of women, that has had an affect on retail sales," Day said.

Data shows that overall, women are spending more money in the outdoor and sports industries. Specifically, women's spending on apparel is up by 26 percent to $249 million in sports specialty ecommerce.

Sales of women’s dresses are up by 27 percent this season while outdoor pants are up by 10 percent. The top-selling pant brands are prAna, The North Face, Columbia, and KÜHL.

If you have questions about the data, reach out to NPD group.


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