As the weather warms up and more people head outside, how many plan to purchase new apparel and equipment for outdoor activities? Compared to the last couple of years, where some retailers (such as L.L. Bean) saw considerable growth, forecasts aren’t as sunny this year. Inflation and spending concerns may already be having a negative effect on the outdoor industry.
CivicScience rounded up the latest trends on what to expect from this shifting market in the months ahead.
Get Up, Get Out
To start, most Americans are planning to venture into nature this year. A survey of more than 2,400 U.S. adults found that nearly 70% plan to participate in one or more outdoor sports or recreational activity before the year’s end.
A look at outdoor activities hints at what people might be buying. Hiking and nature-viewing are the most popular types of outdoor activities – nearly one-third of respondents are planning to hit the trails this year. That’s followed by fishing and hunting, boating and kayaking, and camping. Cycling/mountain biking and trail running are more niche, while rock climbing is reserved for the few.
Spending On Apparel & Equipment
Even though ‘the outdoors’ is still hot this year, demand for apparel and equipment (e.g., hiking footwear, camping gear, bicycles, kayaks, etc.) looks more lukewarm, at least in Q2. While just over half of people are likely to buy in the next three months, the majority plan to spend less than $500 on average in both categories.
But young adults are the consumers to watch. Spending expectations are much higher among Gen Z adults and Millennials (who are also more likely to have outdoor activity plans). More than two-thirds of these groups plan to spend in the months ahead on outdoor apparel and equipment, compared to just over half of Gen X-ers and one-third of Baby Boomers.
How important are discounts and sales? Polling more than 6,400 adults, recent findings show that an incredible 80% of consumers are at least somewhat likely to wait for sales or discounts before purchasing non-essential items right now (i.e., goods other than groceries, toilet paper, medication, etc.). More than 40% are “very likely.”
Segmenting by potential outdoor retail Q2 buyers indicates that most are also at least somewhat likely to hold out for sales and discounts for non-essentials (such as hiking shoes or a new tent). However, they are slightly less likely to wait when compared to people who won’t be buying in these categories.
Focus on Retailers & Brands
Where are consumers likely to spend? Survey findings show that buyers are largely split between big-box retailers Walmart or Target, Amazon.com, and sporting goods retailers, together making up more than 80% of where people shop. The remainder are most likely to source directly from the manufacturer (such as L.L. Bean) or another source (such as a department store or used retailer).
Online buying in this category has changed slightly from 2019, albeit not much. Today, more people overall are likely to say they will shop for sporting / outdoor gear online, although fewer people are “very likely” to do so. That said, e-commerce remains an important channel, with close to half of people potentially purchasing online. This is likely to be even higher among current shoppers in the market.
Brands play an important role. A strong majority (71%) of people who plan to buy outdoor apparel in the next three months are likely to choose certain brands over others. A quick survey of preference among major players in the industry shows a range of brand interest. Shoppers are more likely to be looking for The North Face apparel more than any other brand, with Columbia Sportswear coming in second. Smaller percentages prefer L.L. Bean, Marmot, Patagonia, REI’s exclusive brand, or other brands.
Sporting goods retailers stay strong. Retailers such as Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods remain popular among buyers, likely driven in part by brand-interest. Sporting goods retailers are nearly twice as likely to be preferred over Amazon (as shown in the previous pie chart). A recent look at three hugely successful retailers finds Cabela’s ranks as the most favorable, followed by Dick’s Sporting Goods and then REI. Each of these retailers has its own particular flavor, merchandise, and customer base.
A Word on Environmental Concern
Finally, are people who spend more time in nature also more likely to care about the environment? According to recent survey results, the answer is “no,” at least among shoppers. Data show those who are likely to shop for outdoor apparel and equipment are on average less likely to be “very concerned” about the environment and climate change compared to those who don’t.
Of course, concern is bound to vary across demographics and other markers, such as where people shop, as shown above. Some brands are much more focused on sustainability (e.g., Patagonia) but at the end of the day, the majority of these shoppers are still concerned about the environment, which may factor into their purchase choices.