Deep freeze: High-end cooler sales are hot

Consumers looking to keep drinks and food cold for multiple days of car camping or float trips are spending more than $100-$200 on high-end coolers.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Tell outdoor customers they can keep a beer or caught fish cold for seven days, and they’re ready to spend $100-$200 or more on high-end coolers.

Keeping things cold is rather hot at outdoor retail.

High-end cooler unit sales, a category pioneered by Yeti several years ago, are up 139 percent (for $100-plus models) and up 137 percent (for $200-plus models) from 2011 to 2012, according to Leisure Trends Group’s RetailTRAK data.

These coolers are constructed with the same rotational-molding technologies used to build kayaks — providing heavy-duty insulation — coupled with freezer-grade seals and locks, plus elevated floors to allow cool air to pass underneath.

The share of coolers selling for $200 or more as a percentage of all coolers sold at outdoor retail has increased from 1 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2013 through April, according to Leisure Trends.

Yeti competitors have taken notice with Igloo last year introducing its own line of roto-molded coolers. This Summer Market Igloo brings wheeled 50-quart (MSRP $450) and 90-quart (MSRP $550) versions with telescopic-locking handles. “Our focus mainly has been hunters and fishers, but we see a growing market with all campers, especially those who are heading out to remote environments for a week,” said Lisa Silva, Igloo’s hardsides project manager for new product development. “They’re looking at coolers as part of their essential gear and they want the best.”

Coolers_Igloo_WheeledYukon

Pelican Products also expands into the high-end cooler market with its 250-quart Elite Cooler (MSRP $790), boasting 7-10-day ice retention with 2-inch thick polyurethane insulation, plus a threaded drain plug that is garden-hose-attachable for easy cleaning or draining.

Coolers_PelicanProducts_ProGear150QTEliteCooler

Having established itself as a category leader, Yeti takes a slightly different spin this show with the introduction of its roto-molded Yeti Tank (MSRP $200), a circular, open cooler that consumers can fill with tons of ice and cans/bottles or an entire keg. It sports two hefty rope handles and the company’s Vortex drain for quick emptying. “Since we started the company in 2006, we have grown at least 100 percent year-over-year,” said Denise Smith, Yeti marketing product manager.

Coolers_Yeti_Tank

Not every consumer will have the money or desire to spend so much on high-end coolers, so brands are also upgrading the traditional cooler to hit some middle-ground price points.

Igloo debuts its SuperTough STX line of coolers (MSRPs $90-$220; 54-165 quarts), which aren’t roto-molded, but are better insulated and use longer-lasting materials — such as a bolt-through handle system and stainless-steel hinges, latches and drain plugs — in typical stress areas. “These signature features are all colored a bright orange so they stand out at retail,” Silva said.

Coolers_Igloo_SuperToughSTX120

Stanley also tragets the middle market, debuting a line of Adventure Coolers (MSRPs $40-$75; 7-16 quarts) that appeal in looks and function to the outdoorsman. Bungee tie downs on top allow for nesting a water bottle or a jacket and the small cooler is tough enough to use as a seat. It’s as much about addressing aesthetics as performance, said JoAnne Henderson, global senior marketing manager for Stanley. “Few men want to walk into camp with a bright-colored Playmate cooler.”

Coolers_Stanley_AdventureCooler

--David Clucas

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