Outdoor gear sales slip as millennials drive shift in habits

DENVER | Sales of outdoor equipment are slipping as millennials drive changes in U.S. consumer habits by favoring clothes and sporting goods that are less specialized and more versatile, analysts say.

 

Industry retail sales totaled $18.9 billion from December 2016 through Nov­ember 2017, down 6 percent from the previous 12 months, according to NPD Group, a market research company that tracks trends in two dozen industries.

The company announced the numbers this week as manufacturers and buyers gathered in Denver for the Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show, the industry’s biggest winter marketplace.

Millennials – sometimes defined as people born between 1982 and 2004 – are less likely than the previous generation to demand outdoor gear that stands up to extreme conditions, said Matt Powell, NPD’s senior adviser for the sports industry. He used boots as an example.

“The hardest, the most extreme condition some of these boots are going to have is walking from the Prius to the craft brewery,” he said.

Powell also cited mountain bikes, which riders can use on streets or trails without special clothing and usually cost less than specialized road bikes.

“I describe it as good-enough products. A product that will get me through most of what I want to do, and a product that is versatile,” he said.

Millennials are outdoorsy and support environmental preservation and sustainability, Powell said, but they have a different take on health and fitness than their predecessors. They have a more lighthearted approach that involves their friends, he said.

Some individual retailers and manufacturers have adapted, but the overall industry has not, Powell said.

“I think the outdoor industry has not responded enough to this shift in the mindset of consumers,” he said.

Greg Thomsen, U.S. managing director for Adidas Outdoors, said his company is focusing on consumers in their 20s and younger.

“This industry has been aging for a long time, and it’s nice to bring in some new people,” he said.

Thomsen said millennials like Adidas’ Flyloft jacket, which isn’t suitable for severely cold weather but still works for outdoor recreation. It’s less expensive, easier to care for and more versatile than more a hard-core outdoor jacket, he said, and it’s suitable for a day in the mountains or a night on the town.

The Outdoor Retailer and Snow Show gives retail buyers a look at goods they can sell starting next fall. About 1,000 manufacturers are showing new products to 11,000 retail buyers at the show, which opened Thursday and runs through Sunday.

The 500,000-square-foot expo is packed with nearly everything outdoors people might need.

 

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