BOULDER, CO (BRAIN)—The outdoor product business outpaced the overall retail market by a wide margin, posting a 4.5 percent sales increase to $774.3 million for the five‐week fiscal month of March ending April 2.
Sales leaders included technical backpacks and hydration systems in Outdoor Hardgoods and most types of Outdoor Outerwear, according to retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanInfo for OIA VantagePoint. OIA VantagePoint tracks product sales identified with specific outdoor activities, such as hiking, climbing, camping, trail running, paddlesports and other active outdoor lifestyle pursuits. Among the nine channels tracked by OIA VantagePoint for outdoor-related product sales, the Internet channel saw its growth trend slow versus recent steep gains, and the weakest trend came in the Discount/Mass channel, where core consumers have been particularly hard hit by higher gas and food prices.
“Winter storms early in the month delayed sales of spring products across much of the country in March,” said James Hartford, chief market analyst for The SportsOneSource Group, which manages the OIA VantagePoint platform. “Retailers were able to capitalize somewhat from higher late-season inventories in outerwear this year, but the category still represented a small percentage of apparel sales for the period.”
The gains came despite the latest Easter holiday since 1943, which falls nearly three weeks later than in 2010. Economists expected holiday buying to be pushed into April, but it appears that lower unemployment numbers and pent‐up demand for spring apparel may have prompted consumers to start spring shopping earlier than anticipated. The International Council of Shopping Centers, which tracks 29 major retail chains excluding Wal‐Mart, reported that overall retail sales rose 2 percent for fiscal March—at the high-end of expectations but much lower than the growth in outdoor products.
The Outdoor Hardgoods business outpaced the sales trend for the total outdoor product market, posting a 6.7 percent increase for the month to $375.4 million in March. Hardgoods sales were particularly robust in the specialty channel, which rose nearly 20 percent to $89.8 million. Though footwear and apparel fell by more than 15 percent in the specialty channel for the month, and despite a decline in Paddlesports sales to start the season, strong sales of Technical Daypacks, Internal Frame Packs, Hydration Systems and Camping Equipment were reported.
The Outdoor Footwear business will find it challenging to match last year’s highs when barefoot/natural footwear sales began to heat up. Increased competition (such as barefoot knock‐offs at half the price) and broader distribution of the category have shifted more business to running specialty shops, family footwear stores and the Internet. Not surprisingly, average selling prices (ASPs) for Outdoor Footwear dipped 2.1 percent in the consolidated channels tracked by SportScanInfo for OIA VantagePoint in March versus the prior‐year month. ASPs fell 7.5 percent in the Independent Outdoor Specialty channel. In addition, cold and wet weather kept many specialty consumers in ski boots rather than sandals. Despite the challenges, Outdoor Footwear sales rose by 3.7 percent to $160.7 million in fiscal March.
Outdoor Apparel eked out a gain of 1.8 percent to $238.2 million for fiscal March despite flat or declining business in half the channels tracked by OIA VantagePoint. The Independent Outdoor Specialty channel was challenged by a double‐digit decline as late snowfalls may have slowed consumers’ move to spring/summer sportswear.