Matt Powell’s trend talk is always a fixture at Outdoor Retailer. But for Winter Market, the senior industry advisor for the NPD Group decided to go about things differently: Instead of delving deep into numbers, he spent most of the time taking questions from the audience. The hottest topic? Tariffs. The answer? Well, muddy at best. “It’s difficult to project the impact,” Powell said. “All tariffs increase prices for consumers, and it leaves them with less disposable income—which isn’t good for retail.”

But there was plenty of good news and plenty of stats. At the top of the list: Sustainability is finally making a breakthrough with customers. According to NPD’s research, 33 percent of women said they would pay more for clothing that was described as sustainable, eco-friendly, organic, or ethical than for clothing that was not. This reverses a long trend of consumer indifference, though Powell added that brands can still be more purposeful in telling sustainability stories to continue the trend.

A few brands that have told us their sustainability stories:

- Nikwax

- GoLite

- NEMO

- BioLite

- Green Theme Technologies

In general, outerwear, especially in higher-priced styles ($200 and up), came out as a winner, with growth hitting 13 percent over last year. And fleece continues to be irresistible, with a jump of 9 percent—but softshells fell by 9 percent. In sportswear, the largest annual dollar sales growth came in woven shirts—to the tune of $18 million in the last year, with knit shirts and sweatshirts not far behind.

A big concern of Powell’s audience was what to make of generational shifts. “We see that the boomer population still has most of the money, but they’re not spending it as much on things anymore,” he said. “They’re spending it on experiences—travel, food, wine. And most are downsizing, not accumulating more stuff.” Anything associated with travel is going strong: Travel packs are up 11 percent, and fanny packs are up an impressive 50 percent. Younger generations are relying on the shared economy. “They’re renting more, borrowing, or buying used in order to save money,” Powell said. They’re also walking the talk when it comes to issues they care about: 36 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds have made a purchase specifically because they supported a brand’s social position. Side note, he added: When asked to describe themselves, most Gen Z-ers say “unique.”

If there’s a takeaway message from Powell’s presentation, it’s to zero in on what is doing well. “If the industry focuses on what is working, there’s reason for optimism,” he said. Topping the charts are indoor climbing, travel, family camping, and urban outdoors. That, and reimagining the very purpose of your business. Said Powell, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” 

This article was originally published in Day 3 of The Daily (Winter Market 2018).

Related

microplastics

What's floating in our water?

Small plastics are a big problem. The more scientists look for microplastics (or tiny plastic particles smaller than 5mm—about the size of a sesame seed), the more they find, even in seemingly pristine areas such as polar regions, glaciers, and river headwaters worldwide. And ...read more

Julia Clark Day, NPD Group executive director, holding a big fish

Retail is on the rebound

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 ...read more

a colorful wall of backpacks at Backcountry Experience

Leading the pack: Osprey's new sustainability battle plan

Sustainability is the outdoor industry’s warmest and fuzziest buzzword, but the movement has fallen short on two points: It’s only really made headway in apparel, and it’s mired in green-washed marketing speak. Osprey has decided to tackle both. Osprey—which, according to NPD ...read more

ORSM15_DayPacks_thumb

Outdoor Retail Gear Trends: 2016 Day Packs

Day pack designers are targeting on-the-go consumers, realizing that even the most sport-specific pack will find itself in an airport or subway during the journey to the adventure. For Product Designer Luke Boldman at Mountainsmith, that meant redesigning the brand’s entire line ...read more

RovR rolling coolers

Why coolers with wheels are hot right now

Right now, coolers are more customizable and personal than ever before. Most recently, in January 2018, OtterBox launched a wheel set that snaps into place below the brand’s 45-quart and 65-quart coolers. “Customers can customize their cooler. Some people don’t want wheels at ...read more

People wearing puffy jackets standing around a fire in the snow

Gear trends: Insulation and fabric technology

When recreationists shop for outdoor gear, the sustainability of a product—from farm to factory to shelf—is becoming as important as the quality. The majority of U.S. consumers expect companies to act on social and environmental issues, and outdoor brands are moving that needle, ...read more

fanny pack

Poll | Who makes the best fanny packs?

Some call them waist packs or hip belts, others call them fanny packs. Some wear them to Disneyland, others wear them hiking or fastened to their bikes. Whichever your preference, these compact bags are trending right now—up 50 percent as of November—and numerous outdoor brands ...read more

orwm15_helmets_thumb

Gear trends: 2015/16 Helmets

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update ...read more

orwm15_winterpacks_thumb

Gear trends: 2015/16 Winter packs

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update ...read more