2011 Annual SNEWS Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey: Top-selling brands for camping, backpacking

This week, in part two of our series of reports from the annual SNEWS® Outdoor Retail Survey, we're focusing on best-selling outdoor hardgoods, as well as underwear and sock brands, in the camping and backpacking categories. Some eye-opening results, but as always, you must be an All-Access subscriber to read.
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Welcome to Part 2 of the 2011 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey report, 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 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 Part 1 of our survey, click here to read the "2011 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 space for their answer. 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?

SmartWool – 8.5%

Kavu – 8%

Werner Paddles – 6.5%

Cascade Designs – 5.5%

Dakine – 5%

Sea to Summit – 4.5%*

NRS – 4.5%*

Yakima – 3%

Camelbak – 2%*

Buff – 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.

The definition of what constitutes an accessory brand appears to be a moving target yet again – 2010 introduced the confusion to the category, though the question has remained identical for years. As in 2010, we had so many accessory brand responses that it makes it nearly impossible to determine a trend or overall leader…though we at least managed a bit more direction and frequency of certain brand mentions for 2011. We wonder yet again…are the likes of Kavu, Werner Paddles, Dakine and SmartWool accessory brands? Seems it depends on your perception. Either way, congrats to our top 10 in the accessory brand category for 2011.

What are the top-selling pack brands this year?

Osprey – 38% 

The North Face – 15%

Dakine – 11%

Patagonia – 8%

Deuter – 4%*

Gregory – 4%*

Granite Gear – 3%

CamelBak – 2.5%

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 retains its domination and lock as the best-selling pack in the survey. The North Face lost a few percentage points, but hung on to the No. 2 spot. Say hello to Dakine, a company that in the past surveys has only garnered one or two votes from retailers, and to Patagonia who joins the top list too – both highlight the importance of well-designed daypacks as well as specialty packs for skiing and snowboarding this year. Surprise disappearances for us are Mountainsmith and Kelty, each garnering only a single vote this year – we wonder if former president Kenny Ballard’s departure and what appears to be an increasing focus on big box is playing a role here on the Kelty front. Only time will tell.

What are the top-selling tent brands this year?

MSR – 23%

The North Face – 19%

Big Agnes – 14%

Marmot – 11.5%*

Mountain Hardwear – 11.5%*

Nemo – 4.5%

Eureka – 2%*

Kelty – 2%*

Vaude – 2%*

Sierra Designs – 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.

MSR increased its percentage share, and once again sits as the top-selling brand spot in the tent category. The North Face also increased its percentage share, locking in the number two position. Big Agnes moved solidly up the leader board into the number three spot. And, a big welcome to Nemo – we’ve wondered when this quality specialty tent brand would register in our survey as a top-selling brand with specialty retailers. Diversification 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 rest of the category remains status quo.

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

The North Face – 30%

Mountain Hardwear – 16.5%

Marmot – 14%

Big Agnes – 11.5%

Western Mountaineering – 7%*

Kelty – 4.5%*

*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.

Mountain Hardwear, The North Face and Marmot all continue to occupy the top three spots as they have in surveys past. This year, The North Face retains the top position with a dominant performance. Marmot and Mountain Hardwear swap places from their positions in 2010 as Marmot stayed flat while Mountain Hardwear made a significant percentage point jump. Big Agnes is making more noise than it has in the past, as is Western Mountaineering.

What are the top-selling sock brands this year?

SmartWool – 67%

Fox River – 8%

Wigwam – 4.5%

Darn Tough – 4%

Eurosocks – 3%*

Point6 – 3%*

*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.

So much for our comment after our 2010 results that there appeared to be a bit more parity in the category. There remains clearly one and only 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. Fox River moves up in the fight for the best-selling-brand crumbs left by SmartWool. After that, honestly this is any company’s game with more sock brands than we can possibly comprehend all vying for slices of a pie that don’t seem to be all that big – at least at outdoor specialty retail.

What are the top-selling underwear brands this year?

Patagonia – 43%

Icebreaker – 9%

ExOfficio – 6.5%

SmartWool – 5%*

Under Armour – 5%*

Polarmax – 3%

Terramar – 2.5%*

Kenyon – 2.5%*

IO/Bio – 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.

The only significant changes to the list from last year are the disappearance of Hot Chillys from the top 10 completely and a drop by SmartWool from the number two spot in the 2010 survey down to the number four spot this year. Competition in this category is more intense than a super wedgie, with Patagonia the only company apparently resting easy while watching everyone else vying for a firm grip on the other’s briefs.

For our next look at the SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey results for 2011, 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 the week of April 18.

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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