The lines between outdoor activities are blurring, offering versatile functionality

The lines between outdoor activities are blurring, offering versatile functionality

While the next few years may be challenging for the outdoor performance apparel industry, increased participation in outdoor experiences is expected to lead to retail sales growth of over 20% by 2020, according to a new report from just-style. 

By listening to the new generation of 'outdoorists,' and broadening the definition of outdoor product and how it is worn, the outdoor industry has an opportunity to maintain and perhaps grow its market share, according to the new research: Outdoor performance apparel 2016: A broader perspective.

For the most part, however, outdoor industry growth to 2020 will be dependent on expanding markets in China, India, and southeast Asia; and perhaps Mexico and parts of South America, assisted by government initiatives and the sheer mass of young populations who are growing in affluence. 

Indeed, the Chinese Outdoor Association (COA) expects global retail sales of core outdoor products to grow in the single digits through 2017, accelerate to double-digits in 2018 and 2019, and surpass 20% in 2020.

Only three years ago, sales of outdoor performance apparel were growing at a rate of 6% in the US; 2.5% in Europe; and by double-digits in emerging economies. Outdoor industry sales were outpacing fashion sales, driving an explosion of new brands and "performance" spin-offs, along with a vast expansion of outdoor retail sites and sales channels.

Yet, according to the report, fast-forward to 2016, and the market is considerably different. While interest and participation in the outdoors is growing, the outdoor consumer is changing, becoming younger, more diverse, and more social.

The lines between outdoor activities are blurring, while sales of traditional outdoor apparel, engineered for specific activities, are stagnating. Today's 'outdoorists' are searching for hybrid outdoor apparel with versatile functionality, rather than purchasing activity-specific kit, authors say.

"The industry has been obsessed with the core adventurer, but that's not the way most people now experience the outdoors," explains Michael Cattanach, global product director for performance fabric innovator Polartec.

Antje von Dewitz, CEO of mountain equipment and apparel brand Vaude, describes today's outdoor consumer as "multi-active: one day mountain biking, one day hiking, or mountain touring, etc."

Looking ahead, growth of the outdoor industry is forecast to be in the low single digits in Europe, but better in the US.

For the US in particular, industry growth in both participation and sales is being driven by young consumers such as the urban athlete, the achiever, and the aspirational core.

Crossover athletic brands, such as Adidas Outdoor and Under Armour, are capitalising on opportunities in the "new wild". 

"As outdoor moves to lighter, faster, more durable – more athletic – our pedigree fits," says Jordan Wand, Under Armour vice president, outdoor apparel. "Our perspective is not how we take market share from outdoor brands, but where we find white space as the consumer and participation change."

Click here to access the report.

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Outdoor performance apparel 2016: A broader perspective

Outdoor performance apparel 2016: A broader perspective

As recently as 2013, sales of outdoor performance apparel were growing at a rate of 6% in the US; by 2.5% in Europe; and by double digits in emerging economies. Those were the good old days. In 2016, ...read more