Outerwear is a huge chunk of the outdoor business

Outerwear is a huge chunk of the outdoor business

While sales within the core US outdoor industry appear to be declining, there are still growth opportunities to be had from tapping into consumers' appetites for spending on experiences, according to new research.

Sales of outdoor equipment, apparel, footwear and accessories were $18.9bn in the 12 months ending April 2018, a decline of 4% over the prior year, according to global information company The NPD Group.

But despite this downward topline performance, pockets of growth in areas such as packs, outerwear, and certain camping-related equipment and accessories suggests that adaptable products associated with travel, as well as those tied to replenishment, are bright spots within the core outdoor marketplace.       

In swimwear, for example, women's top and bottom separates both grew sales by 15%, while one-piece and two-piece sets experienced declines, suggesting consumers may prefer to mix and match.

"Brands and products that help consumers on their travels are winning in a declining outdoor market, but the industry has in some ways overlooked this trend, leaving additional growth opportunities on the table," says Matt Powell, vice president and senior industry advisor, Sports, The NPD Group. "Outdoor brands and retailers must do more to tap into this ongoing travel trend."

Growth areas in apparel sold within the core outdoor channels suggest consumers' affinity for versatile products. Growing by 3% in the most recent 12 months and generating $3bn in sales, outerwear is the largest category within the outdoor market. Tops, the segment capturing the bulk of outerwear sales, grew by 4% and that increase was primarily driven by jackets and vests.

"Outerwear is a huge chunk of the outdoor business. The long winter was the primary sales driver in the first few months of 2018, leaving inventories clean. The category is also faring well with its assortment of looks and brands, and its versatility as consumers prefer to invest in products that they can layer or use in a variety of conditions," Powell adds.