For my family, this summer has been filled with camping trips and other outdoor adventures. My experiences have largely mirrored what our data at NPD indicates.
National Park Service statistics show that attendance to national parks, including Acadia, Yosemite, and Yellowstone experienced a surge in visitation levels in recent months, compared to a pre-pandemic 2019. Having had the opportunity to camp at several national parks this year, I am amazed by the number of new visitors and campers getting into the outdoors.
During my trips, I did a little market research of my own. I spoke with several campers and took stock of how they were outfitted. For those admitting that they were new to camping, all confessed that their desire to get outdoors was motivated by the need to get out of their homes and provide their families some escape. All looked to camping as an approachable new adventure.
Of the people I spoke to, about two-thirds had rented an RV to support their adventure. The remainder were tent camping. The consistent theme was all of them were inspired to invest in camping items that helped to bring some creature comforts of homes to the outdoors; camp chairs, portable power, portable showers, and the necessities to make s’mores were almost universally mentioned. For those who were car camping, many made investments in their vehicles, including big tune-ups, new tires, and car racks. For those in their second year of camping, many made additional purchases of camp lighting systems and better sleeping pads.
NPD Retail Tracking data is in line with my observations, as many of these items have been strong sellers this season. Year-to-date through June compared to 2019, total market sales of camp chairs were up 70%, portable power by 162%, top of car rack components by 52%, and lanterns were up 31%.
On a personal front, as my summer trips expanded so did my investments in camp toiletry items – a portable shower and toilet, towels, and biodegradable soap were big investments towards making my family more comfortable in the outdoors. Clearly, I wasn’t alone as camp toiletries grew 55% in dollar sales compared to two years ago.
Where I shopped for these items—at specialty retail outlets—is also mirrored in our data. Camp toiletry items sold at specialty retailers (including both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce) grew by 82% in revenue, compared to the rest of the market, where sales grew 51%. Specialty also gained share in add-on categories, such as car sport racks, coolers, and other camp accessories.
Applying my conversations with newer campers to the trends surfacing in the NPD data reveals that the consumer base for camping is growing – and as their interest and frequency grows, consumers are continuously seeking ways to improve and enhance their experiences. For more technical items, and those critical add-ons like camp accessories and toiletries, consumers are turning to expert assistance to take their adventures to the next level. In turn, they are increasing their spending in the specialty retail market.
I believe that this new group of campers is substantive and will continue to seek new opportunities to improve their outdoor experiences into 2022, providing abundant opportunities for brands and retailers to enhance the camping experience for this group. As the needs of these campers evolve to enhancing the base experience, retailers with the ability to deliver value in terms of advice will likely benefit from the interests of this new camper.
Source: The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, January-June 2021 vs. 2019