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Sneakernomics: State of the Outdoor Retail Industry

Jan 30, 2018
Matt Powell, Vice President, Senior Industry Advisor ;
Retail , Sports

Like the rest of the sports world, the U.S. outdoor retail business was challenged in 2017. For the 12 months ending November 2017, sales declined in the mid-single digits. The void created by The Sports Authority and Sport Chalet bankruptcies made the comparisons even more difficult. One bright spot was that the trend improved, with sales flat rather than down, in the last three months. Whether that positive momentum can carry into 2018 remains to be seen.

For the last 12 months, outdoor industry sales declined in the high single-digits within the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel. In outdoor specialty sales were flat, and in sport specialty e-commerce, sales grew in the low singles.

By category for the 12 month period, footwear declined by about 10 percent, apparel and accessories in the mid singles, and equipment in the high single-digits.

Apparel is the largest category in the outdoor market, driven by outerwear. By channel, apparel sales declined in athletic specialty/sporting goods, but grew within sport specialty and e-commerce.

Outdoor equipment sales were down in all three channels. Sales in outdoor specialty were the most concerning, down in the high single-digits.

Outdoor footwear sales were down sharply in athletic specialty sporting goods, and were also down in outdoor specialty. A bright sport was the sport specialty e-commerce channel, where sales were up in the high single-digits.

For the 12 month period, many of the smaller brands had nice increases, as did Patagonia, Arc’Teryx, Kuhl, Hydroflask, Sorel, Carhartt, and Adidas. Nike, Under Armour, The North Face, Yeti Coolers, and Columbia all posted declines.

Given the reported weak gun sales, I expect that the outdoor categories will be challenged in the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel for 2018, as weak gun sales could lead to weaker traffic for other outdoor products. E-commerce should be the best performing channel, tracking the rest of sports sales online.

After last week’s Outdoor Retailer show, it is clear that there is no new hot item or must-have category that is of scale to move the industry. While some brands will outperform, some of the larger brands will still lag the industry. I expect 2018 to be a year of discovering and transitioning for the outdoor industry, to better position it for the long-term growth it needs.


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