The early and cold winter has proved a boon to US outerwear retailers

The early and cold winter has proved a boon to US outerwear retailers

The cold winter weather in the US has proved to be a boon to retailers of outdoor apparel and footwear, helping to lift sales by 9% to $2.2bn in 2013.

New research from Leisure Trends, part of global information company The NPD Group, also shows that core US outdoor retail channels saw sales of all outdoor products increase 6.4% to $6.9bn last year -  making this the largest full-year dollar total on record.

Cold weather apparel and accessories, which include insulated and non-insulated jackets, shells and fleece, base layers, handwear, headwear and winter boots, experienced strong sales across much of the country in 2013.

These categories saw a year-on-year sales increase of 9.5% in November and December alone, with outerwear (insulated, shell and fleece jackets and pants) making up 68% of the $2.2bn.

Almost 40% of outerwear sales occur in the months of November and December so a late winter can spell disastrous for outdoor retailers.

"With winter arriving earlier than last year and numerous deep freezes blanketing the country, sales have outpaced industry expectations," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group.

Specialty outdoor retailers also ended 2013 with healthier inventories than in 2012. At the end of December 2013, retailers had sold through 84% of on-hand inventory for cold weather apparel and accessories, a 4% improvement from the previous year.

As a result of strong sales and aggressive inventory management, inventory levels for cold weather products had declined 15% from the same time in 2012.

"Extreme weather conditions can be a boon for outdoor industry retailers, but it also presents its own challenges," said Cohen.

"Retailers in areas affected by cold weather have enjoyed brisk sales, but as their inventories draw down they might be running low on key styles, sizes, and colours.

"For retailers affected by the drought, one of the biggest drags on the outerwear market was due to the warmer, drier conditions experienced in western coastal states."