Strong October sales lead outdoor retailers into holiday season

Neither Hurricane Sandy nor the looming fiscal cliff could knock off strong outdoor retail sales gains in October. Outdoor retail sales rose 7 percent in October, according to Leisure Trends Group, and were up by 4 percent, according to OIA VantagePoint — two separate data analyst groups that track the industry.
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Neither Hurricane Sandy nor the looming fiscal cliff could knock off strong outdoor retail sales gains in October.

Outdoor retail sales rose 7 percent in October, according to Leisure Trends Group, and were up by 4 percent, according to OIA VantagePoint — two separate data analyst groups that track the industry.

The positive news for the outdoor industry in October kept it ahead of general retail sales, reported by the National Retail Federation, which showed a 3.9 percent increase during the month.

Both Leisure Trends and OIA VantagePoint officials said that while Hurricane Sandy led to closed outdoor stores for several days in the Northeast at the end of the month, strong consumer demand for survival gear such as lights, stoves, fuel and water purifiers before the storm helped offset the impact.

Leisure Trends said it tracked $451 million in sales (a record high for the month by its figures) from the outdoor retailers, including 10 percent gains each for chain stores and Internet channels, followed by a 2 percent gain for specialty stores.

Camping equipment and equipment accessories, those categories with the most survival gear, reported the strongest gains in October, rising 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively according to Leisure Trends.

OIA VantagePoint, which partners with SportsOneSource for its figures, said it tracked $789.2 million in outdoor sales for October, with the same trend line of a strong performance from its outdoor hardgoods category — up 10.8 percent, fueled by survival gear.

Some cooler, but still moderate temperatures across the country in October helped boost apparel sales. Leisure Trends said its apparel category rose 8 percent fueled by a 13 percent gain in sportswear and a 6 percent gain in outerwear.

"October was the first month in 16 that didn't set a new heat record," said Leisure Trends Retail Relations Manager Greg Shoenfeld.

Meanwhile, OIA VantagePoint reported its outdoor apparel category sales up 3.6 percent, also noting a rise in outerwear, despite no gain for insulated jackets.

Both Leisure Trends and OIA VantagePoint reported declines in their separate footwear categories, down 3 percent and 2.2 percent in sales, respectively. Both pinned the declines on lower winter boot sales, with OIA VantagePoint adding that a decline in barefoot sales also contributed to the drop.

Looking ahead, both OIA VantagePoint and Leisure Trends officials said they expect this year’s low-to mid-single digit growth trend for outdoor sales to continue through the holiday shopping season. Ultimately, cooler temperatures and snow will need to show up to boost sales significantly higher.

Speaking for the general retail picture, NRF officials gave caution that this year’s earlier sales gains may cool by the end of the year as consumers fret over the what the fiscal cliff — a combination of higher taxes and lower government spending — will do to their finances in 2013.

--David Clucas

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