Warm temperatures and sunny skies trumped a broader U.S. economic slowdown in May as outdoor retailers reported healthy sales of spring and summer items.
May total outdoor retail sales rose 7 percent and 8.1 percent for the month, compared to a year ago, according to competing data analysts Leisure Trends Group and Outdoor Industry Association VantagePoint, respectively. The positive figures paced ahead of a 4.8 percent gain in overall retail sales reported by the National Retail Federation.
By sales channel, outdoor chain dollar sales grew 10 percent, online sales rose 6 percent and specialty sales increased 2 percent, according to Leisure Trends.
The mid-spring gains came from a boost in unit sales, not higher retail sale prices, said Leisure Trends Senior Retail Analyst Scott Jaeger. The data suggests that consumers are willing to buy more, but not spend more per product.
Specialty retailers have seen healthy margins on their spring merchandise, Jaeger said. Strong sales of sportswear, casual shoes, sandals and packs have already helped offset many declines in carried-over winter product. Total retail margin, year-to-date, stands at 42 percent, although that’s still off 3 percentage points from a year ago.
Officials with OIA VantagePoint, which partners with The SportsOneSource Group for its data, said that May sales particularly spiked leading up to the Memorial Day weekend holiday, and could rise further this Fourth of July holiday, which falls on a Wednesday.
“More consumers are expected to take a full week holiday instead a three- or four-day respite,” OIA officials said. “These longer vacations may increase sales of core outdoor product, buffering outdoor product sales from widespread economic concerns.”
By product category, OIA VantagePoint reported strong growth in outdoor apparel (up 10.9 percent, including outerwear, despite the warm temperatures) and hardgoods (up 7.7. percent). Outdoor footwear sales increased 7.1 percent, led by gains in technical hiking, outdoor multi-sport and outdoor casual shoes.
It’s been a mixed bag for barefoot and minimalist footwear sales, according to both groups. The trend is losing steam in most categories, except for running.