Why the Out of doors Trade Isn’t Anticipating a Slowdown Anytime Quickly

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The pandemic forced many people to reconnect with nature.

Mountain hardware

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For many people around the world, rediscovering a love for nature has been a benefit of the pandemic. Fitness tracking app Strava’s 2020 report in sports showed global activity participation increased 33% compared to 2019, with 1.1 billion activities uploaded to the platform last year. The fitness watch brand Suunto saw walking among American users increase by 41% over the past year, with walking in particular increasing by 25%.

As the popularity of trekking to cycling increased, so too did the need for clothing and equipment to perform these activities. While the outdoor apparel business had to deal with turbulent early pandemic days, the surge in interest resulted in big business for almost any company that sells gear tailored for an activity.

“The awareness of outdoor lifestyle and active clothing brought us to the surface a little faster,” says Troy Sicotte, Vice President Sales at Mountain Hardwear. “It got us into the decision tree a little earlier than it would have otherwise.”

He says the brand, in the midst of a major “revitalization,” benefited not only from those who first explored the outdoors, but also from those who did so more than once and were willing to pay more for higher quality Hand out equipment. Families who either never had or had not participated in outdoor activities for years also equipped all members of their group to prepare for a pandemic-safe recreation.

“We had a demand for (clothing and equipment) worth two years in one season,” he says, referring to the last spring through to summer.

He adds an overall token of confidence, saying that all of their categories, camping and hiking in particular, will continue to grow as people embrace being outside and make nature a part of their future plans.

Although running partially exists in its own space as a specialty sports category, the activity has a lot of transition into the general outdoor category. Running picked up pace as the weather warmed, and as Dan Sheridan, COO of Brooks Running notes, brands like his are building their strategy on much continued interest over the coming year.

Brooks says it has added two million new runners to its brand.

Brooks

“We’re optimistic that even though people are returning to the gym, they see running as a social opportunity and that a return to racing in the fall of 2021 will usher in another surge in running in 2022,” he says.

According to Sheridan, Brooks welcomed two million new runners to its brand. Brooks was one of several brands to commit to the breakneck transition to e-commerce over the past year as traffic on the brand’s website doubled year over year in Q2 2020, remained high as the year progressed, and revenue grew by scored almost 140%.

He also notes the “continued demand” for performance trail running shoes as the category continues to grow exponentially.

The casual enthusiast sector in the cycling world skyrocketed as the pandemic began. Forecasting group WGSN reported that bicycle sales in April 2020 were up 75% year over year and topped the $ 1 billion mark. Suunto data supports this and shows that the cycling activity of its American users increased by 39% over the past year.

“In 2020 and through to 2021, we have seen many consumers take the step to become cyclists,” says Tove Fritzell, Product and Innovation Director at Bollé, a French brand that makes helmets and goggles that are specific to bicycles and snow sports.

She notes that in addition to the emerging e-bike category, both urban and sporting interest is increasing.

Most of the complete motorcycles (and many components) were hard to find because inventory was sold out last summer and global supply chains were tight. This trend continued through 2021 with limited incoming complete bikes and continued high demand in most categories (demand is a little lower on the high end as many top models are still showing availability).

Overall, the outdoor industry doesn’t seem too bothered about a return to prepandemic travel and recreation habits. If anything, the adoption of new categories over the past year has enabled many to think about how to incorporate nature into their future travel and activity plans.

“We believe that a certain percentage of consumers who have tried new outdoor activities will stay with those activities when things get ‘normal’ again,” says Mike McGrath. North American Sales Director, Fabrics, WL Gore & Associates (maker of GORE-TEX). “We believe the net effect will be to increase overall outdoor participation, which has not been the case for a while.”

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