2009 Annual SNEWS Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey: Top selling brands for camping and backpacking

As we announced last week in Part 1, the full survey results, complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category’s results, will be presented in sections to our All Access SNEWS subscribers over the next few weeks, with this week focusing on best-selling outdoor hardgoods, as well as underwear and sock brands, in the camping and backpacking categories.
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Welcome to Part 2 of the 2009 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey summary, where outdoor specialty retailers get to speak their minds and offer industry observations and commentary on what is great, good, not so good and desperately needs improvement in the industry. As we announced last week in Part 1, the full survey results -- complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category’s results -- will be presented in sections to our All Access SNEWS subscribers over the next few weeks. This week we're focusing on best-selling outdoor hardgoods, as well as underwear and sock brands, in the camping and backpacking categories. If you missed last week, click here to read Part 1 of our annual survey, the "2009 Annual SNEWS® Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey: The best and worst."

Although SNEWS sends the survey to hundreds of outdoor specialty retailers all over the country, this survey is by no means scientific in its approach. We do believe the results are quite representative of the outdoor specialty retail market as a whole, and those surveyed are consistent from year-to-year, so comparing answers from past surveys presents a useful picture of trends, market conditions and retailer moods -- one of the most useful features of this survey. It is very important to remember as you read the results for top-selling brands below that retailers are not predisposed to selecting a brand. They are each presented with a question and a blank. It is also important to note that just because a brand is not listed in this survey it doesn't mean it is not selling well. It just means that it was not a top seller in the stores which responded – either by perception or reality.

OK, enough blather. On with the results:

What are the top-selling accessory brands this year?

Well, either folks did not understand the question this year, or the concept of an accessory brand has taken on an entirely new meaning. This year, we had over 100 separate accessory brand responses, making it nearly impossible to determine a trend or overall leader. There were a few brands that received at least blocks of voting recognition. Cascade Designs and Sea to Summit garnered the most overall votes, each nabbing 7 percent of the total votes. Peregrine chased in behind with 4 percent, and Coghlan’s tucked in right behind with 2.5 percent. Folks, The North Face, Marmot and Mountain Hardwear are not accessory brands -- or are they? Seems it depends on your perception. Either way, congrats to Cascade, Sea to Summit, Coghlan’s and Peregrine for continuing to own a category that few retailers seemingly understand.

What are the top-selling pack brands this year?

Osprey – 28.5%

The North Face – 18.5%

Mountainsmith – 4%*

CamelBak – 4%*

Kelty – 4%*

Gregory – 3.5%

Arc’Teryx – 2.5%

Deuter – 2%*

Granite Gear – 2%*

Vaude – 2%*

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

Osprey, even though it slipped by nearly 10 percentage points, retains a virtual lock as the best-selling pack in the survey. The North Face, which virtually disappeared from voter recognition last year for no apparent reason, vaulted back into the No. 2 spot. Vaude tip-toed onto the top 10 list for the first time. Otherwise, all remains pretty status quo.

What are the top-selling tent brands this year?

MSR – 14%

The North Face – 10%

Kelty – 7%

Marmot – 5%*

Mountain Hardwear – 5%*

Eureka – 5%*

Big Agnes – 5%*

Sierra Designs – 2.5%

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

MSR once again sits in the top-selling brand spot in the tent category. Diversification even in a down market continues, with numerous brands being listed as top sellers just as has been the case in the two years prior – this is a very competitive category to be sure. Aside from the few percentage points moved up or down the list by some, the category remains status quo.

What are the top-selling sleeping bag brands this year?

The North Face – 18.5%

Marmot – 14%

Mountain Hardwear – 10%

Lafuma – 4%*

Eureka – 4%*

Western Mountaineering – 3%*

Kelty – 3%*

Big Agnes – 2%*

Coleman – 2%*

Montbell – 2%*

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

Mountain Hardwear, The North Face and Marmot all continue to occupy the top three spots as they have in surveys past; however, this year, The North Face grabs the top position with Marmot in the No. 2 slot, while Mountain Hardwear slips to third, losing 6 percentage points. Not much else changes, though, in this competitive category.

What are the top-selling sock brands this year?

SmartWool – 53%

Darn Tough – 7.5%

Bridgedale – 5%*

Fox River – 5%*

Wigwam – 3%

Thorlo – 2.5%

Icebreaker – 2%*

Patagonia – 2%*

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

Though there appears to be a bit more parity (if you call a 28-percent drop by SmartWool as a return to parity), there is clearly one very dominant brand in the sock business -- SmartWool. It jumped 10 percent from 2006 to 2007, and then 30 percentage points more in 2008. This year marks a return of Bridgedale and Thorlo to the list after tumbling away in 2008. Darn Tough continues to show it is not going anywhere and maybe, just maybe, it is time to start watching Icebreaker on the sock sales meter as it crept onto this year’s listing for the first time.

What are the top-selling underwear brands this year?

Patagonia – 34%

SmartWool – 10%

Icebreaker – 8%

Hot Chillys – 6.5%

ExOfficio – 4%

Polarmax – 3.5%

Terramar – 2.5%*

The North Face – 2.5%*

Under Armour – 2.5%*

Wickers – 2.5%*

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

In a direct correlation to its first appearance on the “most difficult supplier to work with” list, Icebreaker’s momentum up the top-selling ladder in the underwear category reversed itself slightly as it dropped 6 percentage points from 2008. SmartWool took full advantage and leapfrogged into the No. 2 spot, up two percentage points from 2008. Hot Chilly’s also moved up the list and, likely thanks to some savvy new marketing and improved packaging, Polarmax moved onto the list for the first time, garnering the sixth spot. While Duofold, Mountain Hardwear, Kenyon and Layers each received multiple votes, they weren’t enough to make the top 10.

For our next look at the SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey results for 2009, we'll have detailed analysis of the outerwear, sportswear and footwear categories, including reports on best-selling brands for each one. Look for that report on March 3.

The SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS. Contact SNEWS at survey@snewsnet.com for reprint details and restrictions.

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