Outdoor sales mixed in December

A lack of snow through much of the United States tempered recent gains of outdoor product sales, according to the latest figures from the Leisure Trends Group and the Outdoor Industry Association.
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A lack of snow through much of the United States tempered recent gains of outdoor product sales, according to the latest figures from Leisure Trends Group and the Outdoor Industry Association. The warmer temperatures and a slightly better economic picture helped boost overall national retail sales, however.

The Leisure Trends data showed the more negative effect of early winter’s mild weather — it reported outdoor retail sales fell 2 percent in December 2011, compared to a year ago.

Breaking down the numbers by retail front, “outdoor specialty was hit hardest by the lack of winter weather with December sales down 7 percent compared to December 2010, while chain store sales declined 3 percent,” Leisure Trends Retail Analyst Elisabeth Stahura said. “Seasonal categories such as insulated jackets, winter boots, hats, gloves and winter equipment drove the declines,” while sales of sportswear, casual shoes, rain boots and equipment accessories were up, she said. Internet sales managed an 8 percent increase.

The Outdoor Industry Association’s data painted a slightly rosier picture for December — showing outdoor product sales up 5.3 percent, compared to a year ago. The report noted that while sales of winter gear slowed, “the outdoor apparel business is still getting a lift from the specialty and fashion side of the market.”

The good news is that the general consumer continues to show signs of increased spending. The National Retail Federation reported overall retail sales up 4.1 percent in December, beating expectations.

--David Clucas

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