Holiday cheer: Two industry reports indicate strengthening outdoor/wintersports consumer

Active consumers say they will spend more this holiday season, and mountain lodging figures out West are on pace to hit records. Bring on the snow!
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Call it an early Christmas gift.

Two recent industry reports indicate a stronger outdoor and wintersports customer heading into the holiday season, fueled by economic optimism and some early signs of winter weather.

With a relatively short amount of 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, that’s good news for retailers.

First up, research firm Leisure Trends reported that 18 percent of its annually surveyed “Active Americans” group said they would spend more this holiday season versus last year — “the highest amount in the past four years,” officials said. That’s compared to about 14 percent in the general population who said they would increase spending this season.

Active Americans plan to spend an average of $697 on sports, recreation and fitness products during the 2013 holiday season versus the general population spending about $206 in the sector.

“Retailers take note,” officials said, “previous Leisure Trends surveys indicate that Active Americans have been holding off on replacing big ticket items to help stretch their budgets. This could be the holiday season Active Americans replace those older items.”

“Considering how long Active Americans held on to the items they are replacing, durability will be a key concern,” the report concludes. “Additionally, they will be looking for new innovations to make the upgrade worthwhile. Be prepared to demonstrate durability and technological advances in equipment to help Active Americans justify their next big purchase.”

Leisure Trends surveyed a sample of 2,416 Americans, age 16 and older, to make up its Active Americans group. The general population results reflect a quarterly survey of 1,000 Americans 16 and older. Both surveys we conducted in the third week of September.

The other encouraging news game from Denver-based DestiMetrics (formerly known as Mountain Travel Research Program-MTRiP), which tracks mountain lodging figures in the Western United States.

“Good, better and maybe best ever,” officials said of the early numbers. “Nearly half of all bookings for the upcoming winter have already been made. On-the-books occupancy for November through April is up 8.7 percent compared to the same time last year and revenues are up 14 percent.”

The better news is that the lodging growth has been consistent going all the way back to summer, said DestiMetrics director Ralf Garrison. “The strong summer finish surpasses previous record highs initially set during the pre-recession summer of 2008 and surpassed in 2012 at many destinations.”

Fueling the good numbers, in part is an improving jobs picture and lower gas prices, officials said. A few cold and snowy weeks throughout the Rockies in October also helped, and although drier and warmer weather prevailed in early November, things cooled down and the snow picked back up this past weekend.

(By the way, if you’re a snow/weather junkie like us, we highly recommend checking out OpenSnow (www.opensnow.com), where our favorite weather guru Joel Gratz and his team provide the most detailed forecasts for the mountains.)

Mother Nature will have to come through with more snow to keep things going, officials cautioned. And there is some worry that budget wrangling in Washington. D.C. could dampen demand, especially from destination skiers and snowboarders.

But for now: so far, so good.

--David Clucas

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