Outdoor Apparel, Footwear Post Solid Gains on Robust Inventories and Spring-like Weather

23 March 2011

Boulder, CO — The new retail fiscal year kicked off optimistically, with sales of outdoor products up 5.2 percent to $655.6 million in the four-week period ending February 26, 2011. Outdoor Apparel and Outdoor Footwear both showed gains in early February that moderated by month’s end as consumers started to make the switch to spring/summer merchandise in many parts of the country, according to retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanInfo for OIA VantagePoint™. OIA VantagePoint tracks product sales identified with specific outdoor activities, such as hiking, climbing, camping, trail running or other active outdoor lifestyle pursuits. Out of the nine channels tracked by OIA VantagePoint for outdoor-related product sales, the strongest February growth came out of Department Stores, driven by strong year‐over‐year Apparel sales, and the Internet, which again posted near‐20 percent growth. Though February traditionally represents just a small portion of total annual outdoor product sales, respectable February sales growth may brighten the outlook for retailers hoping that sustained economic progress will drive gains throughout the rest of 2011.

Outdoor Apparel sales grew by 8.6 percent to $298.1 million during the month of February. Outdoor Outerwear took a larger-than-expected piece of the Outdoor Apparel pie this year after February 2010 Outdoor Outerwear sales were stifled by weaker inventory positions. In the Independent Outdoor Specialty channel, retailers had more Outdoor Outerwear inventory on hand to sell this year as Mother Nature delivered another winter wallop in early February. Retailers are optimistic that rising consumer confidence, which hit a three-year high in February, combined with the solid February retail numbers, may indicate a good selling season ahead.

Outdoor Footwear started the retail fiscal month of February with a bang but fizzled late as rising temperatures pushed consumers toward spring and summer products. The result was a 3.8 percent decline in average selling prices for the period due to sharply rising sales of Outdoor Sandals and other lower‐priced categories which offset the more modest gains seen in boot categories. Overall, Outdoor Footwear sales at retail were up 6.1 percent to $137.0 million while unit sales grew 7.6 percent for the period.

The Outdoor Hardgoods category was flat for the retail fiscal month of February, posting growth of only 0.6 percent to $220.5 million. Lifestyle Packs & Bags and Trailers & Racks were the standout categories for the month, experiencing gains both in terms of sales and category share during the month. The Internet/Catalog channel was a key channel for the Outdoor Hardgoods segment posting growth of 14.8 percent for the four-week period. All other channels had low‐single‐digit gains for the month.

Of the nine channels tracked by SportScanInfo for OIA VantagePoint™, the Department Store channel showed the largest increase in outdoor product sales for the month, thanks to full-price sales on early spring products, the clearance of what was left of winter merchandise and shoppers returning to stores after several closed days in January. Internet sales also trended well above the total market with sales growing 19.6 percent in outdoor product categories.

“February is the first month of the quarter and fiscal year for most retailers and traditionally one of the year’s smallest periods in terms of overall sales,” said James Hartford, chief market analyst at The SportsOneSource Group, which manages the OIA VantagePoint platform. “But the month is significant because it gives retailers a bead on just what kind of demand — and price acceptance — there may be for their spring and summer merchandise. Consumers seem to be willing to spend, but predictions of higher prices will be closely watched as the year progresses. We’ve had an optimistic beginning.”

OIA members can access the OIA VantagePoint™ monthly trend report for February 2011, as well as quarterly and monthly reports for 2010, by logging in to www.outdoorindustry.org/vantagepoint.

OIA VantagePoint™ is the first and only full market point-of-sale data view built specifically for Outdoor Industry Association members. OIA VantagePoint™ provides comprehensive visibility into the outdoor marketplace by tracking weekly point‐of‐sale data from over 10,000 retail doors and websites carrying outdoor products, including over 350 outdoor specialty locations. In‐depth sales information is available online within five days of the prior week close — a competitive advantage for businesses who can shift critical resources and react quickly to ever-changing consumer preferences.