As kayak and SUP season rolls around, we thought it would be a good time to examine how those categories are faring at retail in a post-pandemic world.
The bottom line: Kayak and SUP sales are down significantly from their COVID highs, but are still substantially above pre-pandemic levels, according to retail tracking firm Circana (formerly The NPD Group and IRI).
“The market began to cool down over the past year once consumers made their equipment purchases and as the world began to reopen, shifting our spending back to travel and dreamed-about vacations,” said Julia Day, executive director of business development, sports, for Circana.
The Kayak Market
In the last 12 months ending March 2023, kayak and kayak paddle sales fell 16% to $455.9 million compared to the previous year.
However, kayak and kayak paddle sales are 23% higher than three years ago.
In a previous interview with The Daily, Jim Quinlan, the owner of Colorado-based outdoor retailer Jax Mercantile Co., confirmed hardgoods sales have been very challenging this year.
“A lot of these hardlines — people have them. How many kayaks do you need? How many paddleboards?” he said.
While overall kayak sales are down in the past year, there was still one bright spot: whitewater kayaks.
Whitewater accounts for a small portion of the overall kayak market, however, that segment grew 19% in the past 12 months.
The SUP Market
Sales of stand-up paddleboards and paddles combined dropped 21% to $61.8 million in the past 12 months compared to the year-ago period.
However, the SUP market is up a whopping 59% compared to pre-COVID levels.
Potential in Accessories
While big ticket equipment sales may be lower, many of the items consumers need to participate in the sports are still seeing gains.
Water sports accessories such as booties, gloves and hoods saw a 22% increase in sales to $6.9 million during the past 12 months.
Sales of water sports dry gear rose 12% to $8.8 million.
Meanwhile, sales of helmets for water sports jumped 30% to $2.4 million.
“As people gear up for the summer season, add-on purchases provide sales opportunity for the water sports market,” Day said. “People who invested in the equipment will need to buy their accessories and we are starting to see products like wetsuits, helmets, and other accessories sell well.”
Lots of Water Thanks to Lots of Snow
The record snowfall in several regions of the country could also be a positive for the outdoor water sports market, Day said.
“With runoffs and therefore filled lakes and rivers that will likely remain through most of the summer, these conditions might further entice water sports participation this summer,” Day said.