With the current economic uncertainty, U.S. consumers have concerns about household budgets, spending, and inflation. Despite these concerns, sales in the outdoor and snowsports categories have grown 2% over last year, reaching nearly $10 billion, according to a report released by The NPD Group.
For the 12 months ending in October, NPD reported that outdoor specialty and outdoor e-commerce sales rose 10%.
These findings were discussed in a recent webinar, “A Deep Dive into 2022 Outdoor and Snowsport Consumer Trends with NPD,” presented by Outdoor Retailer. Dirk Sorenson, an executive director at The NPD Group, led the webinar and looked at a variety of topics, including current economic trends, 2022 outdoor and snowsports sales, and working from home trends.
The NPD Group is a market research firm that tracks general merchandise sales across 20 industries. It gathers and analyzes point-of-sale data from more than 600,000 retail locations, plus e-commerce and mobile platforms.
Sorenson also detailed how snow sales are going so far this winter season.
Positive Outdoor Categories
Categories that posted gains for the year ending October 2022 include:
Bottles/insulated containers: Up 14%
Camp chairs: Up 13%
Climbing gear: Up 13%
Hard-sided coolers: Up 9%
Outdoor sports equipment: Up 2%
Activewear: Up 1%
Negative Outdoor Categories
Categories that declined for the year ending October 2022 include:
Health and fitness equipment: Down 27%
Kayak paddles: Down 24%
Kayaks: Down 11%
SUPs: Down 19%
Cycling: Down 10%
Athletic footwear: Down 5%
Recreational camping products: Down 4%
Slow Start to Snow Season Against Tough Comparisons
When it comes to the current snow season, sales have gotten off to a slow start, according to NPD’s analysis of sales from August through the end of October.
In that timeframe, sales for winter sports equipment dropped 12% to $374 million, but shop services were up 25% to $25 million.
So far, sales at snow chain stores are faring better than specialty store sales.
Sales at chain stores are up 4%, while sales at snow specialty shops are up 1%.
Snow specialty e-commerce sales are down 2%.
Banner Snow Sales Last Season
Last year’s ski season (August 2021 to March 2022) was particularly strong, Sorenson said, with sales up 11%.
Results for last season by category, included:
- Snowboard equipment sales: Up 18%
- Alpine equipment sales: Up 12%
- Winter snow accessories sales: Up 10%
- Googles: Up 13%
- Helmets: Up 16%
Sorenson thinks it will be tough to match that performance again this year, but says it is too soon to predict where the season will end up
“I think hitting those numbers again will be really challenging,” he said. “It’s early to make any determination on where we’re going to land. But the snow shop services number is a good indicator of ongoing activity into 2022. Rentals are up 26% and shop services are up 25%. Those are really good early indicators of ongoing interest in snowsports activities.”
And while the data shows consumers cutting back their spending on restaurants, apparel and travel, fewer were willing to reduce spending on sporting goods and equipment, a positive sign for the outdoor and snowsports industries, Sorenson said.
“Consumers really have embraced the need to purchase in the outdoor and snowsports categories and are reserving their purchase dollars for these categories by and large,” he said.
And there was some recent economic news that was more positive. Consumer sentiment rose by 1.4 points in the first week of December, the largest jump since mid-July 2022.
While e-commerce saw huge gains through the pandemic as more people shopped from home, that trend has slowed more recently.
According to the NPD report, e-commerce growth was flat in October, as consumers were starting to find the right channel location to purchase items – whether it be online or at a brick-and-mortar location.
“E-commerce is not cannibalizing sales as it once was from brick-and-mortar outlets,” said Sorenson. “As we go into 2023, consumers are starting to know what to buy online and what to buy in the brick-and-mortar environment.”
Continued Interest in Outdoor Activities
As consumers return to a more normal lifestyle this year, some in the outdoor and snowsports industry were concerned that the pandemic-fueled participation surge would wane. Sorenson said NPD’s research shows that the large format gym business increased 20% year-over-year and is now back to pre-pandemic levels.
But that doesn’t mean consumers are going to the gym instead of going outdoors. In fact, NPD’s data showed that campsite reservations were up 5% compared to last year, and ski resort season pass sales were up 6%.
“Those are really good signs,” said Sorenson. “By and large, the interest in these activities seems to be robust. Consumers’ need for goods and gear may be decreasing because they already purchased those items in 2020 and 2021.”
Working From Home Still Prevalent
While the country is returning to normality, some of the effects of the pandemic have remained – including a remote workforce. As of November 2022, about 31 million workers worked from home, according to the NPD report.
“The important takeaway here is that consumers who are working from home have about an hour of saved time from not commuting,” Sorenson said. “How are they using that time? My encouragement to the outdoor and snowsports industry is to think about how you can compete with other activities in order to win retail opportunities?”