U.S. outdoor retail sales fell 4% to $18.9 billion in the 12 months ending this past April, according to global information company The NPD Group.
But there are pockets of growth, including in packs, outerwear and camping-related equipment and accessories. Adaptable products associated with travel, and others tied to replenishment, are "bright spots" in the market, according to a blog post from Matt Powell, NPD Group vice president and senior industry advisor.
Outerwear, the largest slice of the outdoor category, performed especially well, growing by 3% to $3 billion, according to NPD. Within that, tops grew 4%, driven mostly by jacket and vest sales.
The outdoor retail category has slowed, but travel is serving as a parachute to keep that in check, Powell said. “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," he noted in his post.
The segment's opportunities are wide ranging. Sales of travel packs grew 5%, duffle bags 3%, luggage 2% and, believe it or not, fanny/waist packs 9%. Top-of-car components including cargo boxes and baskets grew 8%, backpacking sleeping pads/mattresses grew 4%, and trekking pole pairs 5% percent. Rooftop tents/awnings is a small but growing segment of the market, with sales more than doubling in the past year, NPD found. Meanwhile, sales of solar power products — which provide connectivity for devices like mobile phones and speakers — grew 34%.
But outerwear is king, and that's good news for Eddie Bauer, among others. The retailer recently promoted Damien Huang, who as merchandising chief made a name for himself through his outerwear designs, to lead the brand. Same-store sales there last year rose 6.5%, and so far this year they're up 6%, the company has said.
Some consumers are apparently willing to pay quite a lot for high-performing outerwear. Canada Goose, whose parkas can cost north of $1,000 each, announced fourth quarter results that flew by analyst estimates, including a total revenue rise of 46.4% to $591.2 million. The company last month announced a series of new stores for North America and said it expects annual revenue growth of at least 20% next year.