The summer keeps getting hotter and drier, and consumers are responding by getting outside more, lifting outdoor product sales to their largest gains all year.
Outdoor sales rose by 8 percent in July according to Leisure Trends Group, and by 4.2 percent according to OIA VantagePoint, two separate groups tracking the market. The results for the outdoor industry well outperformed the general retail market, which saw a 1.2 percent sales rise in July, or up 3.4 percent with auto, gasoline and restaurant sales included.
Leisure Trends officials said the outdoor sales gains were the largest since November 2011, and the results were well balanced — a 4 percent rise in units sold, coupled with a 5 percent bump in average retail price.
"These results should allay many concerns that early-season sales increases would steal from results later in the summer," said Tom Jones, a Senior Retail Analyst at LTG. "Given the uncertain economic environment, it is especially encouraging to see outdoor consumers open their wallets."
Both Leisure Trends and OIA officials noted strong gains in outdoor equipment and hardgoods, which rose 7 percent according to the former and 5.4 percent according to the latter.
Within hardgoods, tent sales surged 23 percent, while pack sales remained flat, Leisure trends officials said. They added that action cameras, wrist instruments and binoculars also exhibited sold gains in the category.
OIA, which partners with SportsScanInfo for its data, reported paddlesports sales up 22 percent, with double-digit percentage gains in kayaks and triple-digit percentage gains in stand-up paddleboarding.
In footwear, both data groups reported more muted growth, up 4.1 percent by OIA’s count and up 2 percent according to Leisure Trends. Both noted trail running footwear leading the category’s gains, while OIA reported weakness in barefoot shoes, and Leisure Trends said multi-sport shoe sales slipped.
The two data groups couldn’t agree on apparel sales, with Leisure Trends reporting a solid 12 percent gain for the sector in July, and OIA saying sales limped forward 1.3 percent led by weakness in outerwear. Leisure Trends did sound a cautionary note on apparel, saying specialty stores had 20 percent more dollars tied up in apparel inventory this July than last, particularly in outerwear. Perhaps it’s not a surprise, considering the extremely dry and warm conditions that have persisted for most of the year.
By retail channel, it was a mixed report on the specialty retail front, likely due to a difference in counting up online sales.
OIA reported specialty sales up 7.8 percent, led by a nearly 20 percent increase in specialty Internet sales. OIA said online sales represented 13.5 percent of total specialty sales in July.
Leisure Trends reported specialty sales dropped 1 percent in July, as it does not include specialty online sales in its figure, counting it instead in its online channel, which grew 19 percent during the month.
"It is important to support the specialty (brick and mortar) channel where leading edge products, customer service and expert advice pull in consumers,” Jones said. “Targeted communications that remind consumers what is 'special' about specialty may be needed to energize sales in this channel."