Warmest recorded March in U.S. had outdoor retailers scrambling to stock spring goods early

With store shelves still full of leftover winter gear, outdoor retailers faced an early rush of consumers looking for spring items in the midst of a record warm March.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
NOAAMarch2012.jpg

Outdoor retailers rushed to stock their shelves with spring inventory in the midst of what turned out to be the warmest March in the United States on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Monday that the nation experienced an average temperature of 51.1 degrees in March 2012 — 8.6 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average and half a degree warmer than the pervious record high, set in March 1910.

“Every state in the nation experienced at least one record warm daily temperature during March,” NOAA officials said, and 25 states (mostly east of the Rockies) had their warmest March on record. Only one state, Washington, experienced colder than normal average temperatures in March.

The warm weather has helped fuel sales of spring sportswear and footwear, outdoor retailers told SNEWS, but it’s been a scramble to get the inventory out on the floor early enough.

“It was 83 degrees on that last day of winter here,” said Doug Baker, head buyer at Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Like a lot retailers, after the year with no winter, our floor was still full of leftover winter items, but consumers were coming in for new spring product. We had to get those out a lot earlier.”

Baker said sportswear, particularly women's sport dresses from Horny Toad, Patagonia and Prana, have sold well, along with summer footwear from brands like Chaco and Teva.

March outdoor sales figures, which are still being processed, will likely continue the trend of spring items outperforming winter ones, said Liz Stahura, account executive with Leisure Trends Group.

Year-to-date, through the end of February, winter equipment sales fell 31 percent, while climbing gear rose 19 percent, packs gained 12 percent and tents increased 8 percent across the specialty, chain and Internet channels, she said. In footwear, boot sales fell 10 percent, but shoes were up 15 percent fueled by trail running, water and causal categories.

As for all that remaining winter product, many retailers told SNEWS they’re looking to online sales and holding inventory to next winter.

“The web has been a useful tool to move unwanted merchandise and still stay within vendor guidelines that dictate dates and discounts,” said Geoff Brugler, owner of Appalachian Outdoors in State College, Pa. Many outdoor retailers are advertising winter product sales of 30-40 percent off. Those sales will wrap up in stores soon, but likely will linger online where sales floor space is virtually unlimited.

Stores also are prepping for early fall 2012 sales to move last season’s goods, retailers told us. “We traditionally don’t do Black Friday sales and the like, but we’re considering it for this November,” Baker said.

With consumers expected to snap up winter bargains from this season, retailers told us they’ve cut their preseason orders and tightened their open-to-buy dollars by as much as half for next winter. Manufacturers such as Columbia Sportswear are already feeling the negative effects, and upcoming first-quarter 2012 results from other public outdoor companies such as The North Face parent VF Corp. and Black Diamond will provide more insight.

In the immediate future, the best-case scenario will be for the spring temperatures to hang around the 70s, “so that we actually have a spring,” Baker said. “We're bracing for a brutally hot and muggy early summer now, and when it gets into the 90s with 90 percent humidity that isn’t so good for business.”

--David Clucas

Related

Shopping_Bag.jpeg

Weak winter meets strong spring: February outdoor retail sales mixed

Spring arrived a month early for outdoor retailers this year, as many shops began selling warmer-weather items in February to make up for the weak winter. It worked to some extent, with the latest outdoor sales data showing mixed results for February. Leisure Trends Group ...read more

Shopping_Bag.jpeg

Outdoor March sales climb on early spring gear, winter discounts; barefoot/minimalist footwear outlook mixed

The warm and pleasant weather that plagued outdoor retailers this winter is now benefitting them in spring. During the warmest March on U.S. record, competing data analysts Outdoor Industry Association VantagePoint and Leisure Trends Group reported outdoor sales by dollar up 1.1 ...read more

Outdoor financials: Quiksilver closing the gap on Rossignol takeover, plus NRF reports March retail sales, VF Corp.

Quiksilver closing the gap on Rossignol takeoverQuiksilver (NYSE: ZQK) said it closed the deal to buy nearly half the shares of Skis Rossignol SA from its majority stockholder -- the Boix-Vives family -- the first of two steps in the planned buyout of the French ski manufacturer. ...read more

SnowFallABasin

Following flat fall, early winter looks brighter for outdoor/fitness retailers

The government shutdown, slightly higher interest rates and comparisons to last year’s Sandy-related survival retail boost left outdoor retail sales flat for October, according to industry data analysts Leisure Trends Group and OIA VantagePoint. But there are early signs winter ...read more

ORSM_New2012_Logo.jpg

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market ’12 records record attendance

Yep. It was crowded in Salt Lake City last week. Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012 hit record attendance, nearing 27,000 visitors, according to preliminary figures. The trade show, held Aug. 2-5, 2012, attracted close to 20 percent more retailers than a year ago, officials ...read more

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market '07: Setting size and attendance records

For those who wondered last year if Outdoor Retailer Winter Market could manage to get bigger and still remain relevant, wonder no more. Winter Market 2007 was indeed much bigger in terms of exhibit hall space and overall attendance. As we heard from the floor of the SIA ...read more

Utah State Capitol

Join the march for public lands at Outdoor Retailer

In response to outdoor industry concerns about public lands issues in Utah, The Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Alliance, Outdoor Industry Association, and Outdoor Retailer will hold a march during the trade show. Outdoor Retailer, The Conservation Alliance, Outdoor Industry ...read more

ORWM14_Day2_Feature_Thumb

Seasonal disorder: Winter outdoor retail sales floors and brands are warming up

Welcome to the new outdoor retail winter sales floor. No longer does a sea of puffies, fleece and skis dominate the landscape — even with the return of cold and snow this year. Now running shoes, yoga apparel and even paddlesports gear are adorning winter shelves. Two prior warm ...read more

SmartWoolNewHQ

Outdoor Real Estate: Brand retail stores, and expanded HQs blooming this spring

Relocations, expansions, store openings — the outdoor industry remained busy this early spring with real estate moves that signal growth. Continuing to dominate the new properties list is a rise in direct-to-consumer brick-and-mortar stores as individual brands look to ...read more