Sluggish economy slows overall outdoor sales growth in June, but sun-based revenues soar

Outdoor sales climbed in June to kick off summer, but the growth came at a relatively slow pace, despite stronger performances by warm-weather items.

Outdoor sales climbed in June to kick off summer, but the growth came at a relatively slow pace.

Total outdoor sales increased 2 percent to $540 million in a month that set 170 heat records across the country, according to Leisure Trends Group’s Outdoor RetailTRAK analysis. Unit sales actually declined 1 percent, but were offset by a 3 percent rise in retail pricing.

Outdoor sales mirrored the overall retail market, which saw sales climb 1.7 percent in June, according to the National Retail Federation.

June’s warm weather, however, is benefiting outdoor retailers and companies that are well stocked with warm-weather goods.

“Heat is good. It drives people to have fun in the water,” said Dan Mangus, the marketing manager for Hobie, which he said posted “very strong” sales in the first half of the summer.

Chain stores, which surged through the first half of the year, stumbled in the heat, falling 1 percent from last June to $259 million with unit sales down 4 percent, according to RetailTRAK data. Specialty stores weathered the heat with a 2 percent annual increase in sales — to $157 million — and 1 percent growth in unit sales. The weatherproofed Internet stirred $125 million in sales, marking a 6 percent increase in dollars and 5 percent increase in unit sales.

The June heat spiked sales for sun protection, with shelters climbing 16 percent to $6 million, hands-free hydration up 6 percent to $4 million, sunglasses up 7 percent to $17 million, sports bras up 20 percent to $2 million and short-sleeved shirts up 8 percent to $20 million.

“I would say warm weather clothing is having a banner year,” said Abe Rudman, president of Miami’s Sportailor, whose Solar System line of UV-blocking shirts saw sales “way, way up” in June and July. “Sun-protection clothing in particular, people are becoming more aware and conscientious of the importance, especially as temperatures rise.”

Those consumers seeking breeziness and shade are credited with a promising surge in early July. The Outdoor Industry Association’s VantagePoint research — compiled by SportOneSource — showed outdoor sales climbing for the first week of July, with double-digit gains in outdoor apparel and mid-single-digit growth in shoes and hardgoods.

OIA’s VantagePoint data showed specialty Internet as the strongest driver of retail growth in June, with sales up 25 percent. The association’s research also showed outdoor footwear enduring a tepid 1 percent rise to $295.7 million after a strong May. Outdoor hardgoods — fueled by strong sales in kid carriers and daypacks — rose to $548.8 million, a 3.7 percent increase over last June.

Despite the overall still-sunny picture, the lingering recession is stirring some isolated storms. Austin-based Backwoods last week announced it was shuttering its St. Louis store, which opened in August 2009. Backwoods chief Jennifer Mull said in a statement that the St. Louis store’s financial impact was “too much of a strain” on the 39-year-old company.

--Jason Blevins


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