With summer approaching, so too is the peak season to venture into the great outdoors for some R&R. Recent market research says that many will score their camping or hiking gear, and other sporting goods, online. That trend is only expected to grow within the next five years.

But how many opt to buy online versus visiting a sporting goods store, like Dick’s or REI?

A new study from CivicScience found that buying sporting and outdoor gear online is a trend that warrants attention. In an online poll of 1,787 U.S. adults, 45% said they were likely to buy their gear online.

It turns out that it’s not just the youngest audiences more prone to buy sporting gear online. The majority of adults between the ages of 18 and 54 are likely to.

Dick’s Sporting Goods VS. REI

Taking a deeper dive into the market, the study also looked at two major U.S. chains that sell sporting and outdoor goods: Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI. Dick’s is the largest sporting goods retailer in the U.S. with 850 stores, while REI has 154 stores and a heavy focus on e-commerce. 

In online polls of more than 27,000 U.S. adults, Dick’s shows to be the more popular option among Americans by far; 58% have never heard of REI.

It’s not exactly like comparing apples to apples. While there is certainly some crossover, Dick’s is a broad spectrum sporting goods outlet while REI focuses more exclusively on outdoor gear.

However, the study shows that both brands attract very similar customer bases in terms of age and income distribution. It also shows that the two share a percentage of their customer bases: 50% of respondents favorable to REI say they also like to shop at Dick’s, while inversely, about 20% of those favorable to Dick’s like to shop at REI.

And when it comes to its online presence, REI has a pretty powerful model, offering both new and used retail. Despite recently coming up against criticism in the press, Dick’s is also working on ramping up its e-commerce platform.

That’s important because the study shows that nearly half of those who are favorable to buying sporting gear online are also favorable to shopping at Dick’s, while 29% are favorable to shopping at REI.

When flipping that data around, the study shows that 56% of those favorable to Dick’s and 71% of those favorable to REI are likely to shop online for sporting gear.

Throw Amazon into the mix and things get more complicated. The study also shows that strong majorities of Dick’s and REI shoppers are favorable to shopping at Amazon — more so than those who are neutral or unfavorable to either brand.

The data indicates there is a connection between people who buy sporting goods (represented by Dick’s and REI shoppers) and shopping at Amazon. To what extent are they buying their sporting gear on Amazon?  We will dive into that more in a follow-up report.

Whether it’s a large established retailer like Dick’s or a smaller retailer like REI, it’s clear that having the option to buy sports and outdoor gear online is important to customers and critical to the sporting goods market moving forward.