March and Q1 (U.S.) Outdoor Sales Decline, Camping and Internet Sales on Rise

6 May 2009

BOULDER, CO  – March 2009 retail sales for all core outdoor stores (chain, internet, specialty)* combined dropped 5% compared to last March, moving from $369,182,477 to $349,797,17, according to the most recent edition of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report, produced for OIA by the Leisure Trends Group. Sales for the entire first quarter totaled $1.1B, down 7% from the same period in 2008

Although both chain and specialty stores declined in March and so far this year, with specialty stores down 12% in dollar sales compared to last March and chain stores down 8%, declines softened in both channels and multiple categories gained in each.  Signs of life, however, emerged as internet sales were back in the black this month, jumping 14% in dollars over both last March and Q1 2008.

Internet Rebounds, Equipment Sales Increase 26%

According to the OIA Outdoor Topline Report, internet sales totaled $81M this month, jumping 5% in units, 8% in retail price and 14% in dollars.  Every major product category (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear) and most sub-categories gained.  Outdoor equipment was the big winner, growing 26% above an already-healthy March 2008 and easily outselling both chain and specialty equipment.  Tents, sleeping bags, packs, climbing gear and winter equipment all saw double-digit sales growth.  Retail prices were up in many categories as well, an indication that consumers were willing to pay slightly more to score that great deal on higher-quality items.

Q1 Recreation Kayak Sales Increase 7% in Dollars

Core paddlesport stores (specialty, chain, internet) brought in $33M in March and $50M in Q1 2009, dropping 7% and 4%, respectively, against the same period last year.  Consumers seemed more willing to make small purchases than large ones, as apparel and accessories increased sales so far this year while boats and paddles sank.  However, both recreation kayak and canoe dollar sales were up in Q1 2009.  Both were the result of higher selling-prices not increased volume, as recreation kayaks increased 7% to an average of $770 and canoes increased 21% to an average of $924.

Chain Stores Post Solid Camping Sales

In chain stores, products that may appeal to the casual camper/outdoor recreationist saw healthy sales: recreation tents, synthetic-fill rectangular and mummy sleeping bags, medium-sized (2,500-4,000ci) packs, technical lumbar packs, water bottles, energy food, cookware, camp furniture, water purification, misc. camp accessories and hiking boots all outsold March 2008.  Soft goods foundered, as all outerwear and most sportswear categories sank.  Woman-specific clothing and footwear, as well as some spring-ready sportswear categories continued to sell.

Specialty Declines 12%

Specialty stores were the hardest hit in March, losing 12% in overall dollars from the same month last year.  However, there were plenty of positives as a number of categories did increase sales and declines were less severe in most other categories.  Dollar growth came from synthetic mummy bags, medium packs, climbing gear, water bottles, tools, energy food, dehydrated meals, bivvy sacks, water purification, camp stoves and multisport shoes.


To access the OIA outdoor retail sales Topline data and to review trends by industry channel and category, OIA members can log in at or call 303.444.3353 for assistance. For additional brand growth and brand and model market share reports, please contact Leisure Trends Group at 303.786.7900 x107

*OIA Topline Report Outdoor and Paddle channels include: outdoor and paddle specialty, national outdoor chains, regional sporting goods chains and outdoor (and paddle) internet specialty merchants.


About Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous, Outdoor University, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to or call 303.444.3353.