According to The OIA Outdoor Topline Report, declines came from all three store channels and all four major product categories (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear). However, bright spots emerged even in this tough month, as items related to hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing and other easily-accessible outdoor vacations remained strong in each channel. Apparel sales struggled, however, as weather and economic conditions converged to create a very difficult climate for sales.
Specialty Stores Move Through Carryover Product
Specialty store sales totaled $181M in February, dropping 15% in unit sales, 5% in retail prices and 19% in dollars compared to February 2008. Every major product category and most sub-categories lost sales this month. The largest declines came from apparel. Bright spots were sparse this month, but included climbing gear, down-fill mummy and synthetic-fill rectangular sleeping bags, small and large packs, water bottles, camp/energy food, water purification, stoves and multisport shoes. Retailers continue to move their old product as total carryover (old/discontinued or sold below cost) unit sales increased 13% in specialty stores, moving from 6% of all units sold last February to 9% of all units sold this month.
Chain Stores Ring Up Early Camping Sales
Chain stores brought in $99M, down 17% in units and 18% in dollars from last February. As in specialty stores, nearly every category declined this month, with apparel categories falling the hardest. Positively, sales growth came out of water bottles, recreation tents, rectangular sleeping bags, camp cookware, water purification and hiking boots, suggesting that camping and outdoor vacations continue to resonate with cash-strapped consumers in early 2009.
Internet Sales Show First Decline Since November
Online sales also shrank this month, only the second month to do so since the OIA Outdoor Topline Report started tracking Internet sales in 2005. The first month of declines came in November 2008. Compared to February 2008, total unit sales slipped 22%, and dollars dropped 9% to $61M. While equipment accessories, footwear and apparel each saw sales drop, equipment eked out a 1% gain in dollar sales, the only major product category to do so across all three channels. Recreation tents, small packs and winter equipment each contributed to the category's growth. On the soft-goods side, fleece tops, hiking boots and winter boots each increased dollar sales this month.
Paddlesports Sales Up Across All Channels
While February sales are typically small for paddlesports, there is reason for optimism as key categories built momentum this month. All paddle product sales from all three channels (specialty, chain, and internet) grew 7% in units this month, but fell 2% in dollars as retail-selling prices declined 8%. Compared to last February, specialty stores dropped 5% in overall dollars while chain stores grew 8% and internet grew 10%, both off of a small base. Recreation kayaks, canoes, canoe paddles and accessories all increased sales in specialty stores this month.