Trends & Features

Come rain or shine…

The summer offers an excellent opportunity to analyse the performance of the outdoor sector during the preceding winter months.

This sector, perhaps more than any other, is influenced by the weather. Higher average selling prices for winter jackets and boots can be justified by consumers when the weather is particularly cold or wet, but retailers can often be left with surplus stock if the winter’s a mild one.

2011 was a particularly mild year – the average minimum temperature for the 12 months was 8.3 degrees Celsius – and we experienced an especially warm Q4 – the critical quarter for this category – with an average minimum temperature of 7.4 degrees Celsius.

Compared with an average minimum temperature of 5.1 degrees Celsius for Q4 of 2012, we can begin to understand just how mild the winter of 2011 was.

With a colder winter, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a sales bounce for the outdoor category in 2012, especially in Q4.

Using the NPD Consumer Panel, which tracks tens of thousands of purchases each year, we can build an accurate picture of the sports apparel and footwear market and the categories within it.

When comparing the full 12 months of 2012 to 2011, the outdoor category grew by four per cent, fuelled by an especially strong performance in the fourth quarter (nine per cent growth).

It was a similar story across the rest of Europe, as the colder winter wasn’t just a UK phenomenon – France, Germany and Italy all experienced strong growth.

So where specifically did we see growth in the UK market for outdoor products?

From a retail perspective, it will come as no surprise to learn that Sports Direct is now the leading outdoor retailer and shows no sign of relinquishing that position.

Other specialist stores such as Cotswold Outdoor and Go Outdoors continue to establish themselves in the market, but face a considerable task to overhaul Sports Direct.

The strength of Sports Direct means a complicated retail strategy for brands that choose to do business with the Mike Ashley owned chain, as well as other high street names and independent stores.

Product mix and pricing are critical to ensure brands hit all price points, without relying too much on the lower priced model of Sports Direct.

Berghaus, which is owned by the Pentland Group, is the number one outdoor brand in the UK. Nike and adidas, while still among the top brands, do not own the category.

Sports Direct own brand Karrimor is the market leader in outdoor footwear.

In terms of specific outdoor products that performed well in 2012, the colder weather helped the jacket category post some strong growth numbers within apparel and on the footwear side outdoor multifunction was the standout shoe type.

Interestingly, female consumers have been the predominant driving force in the category, with 13 per cent growth within outdoor apparel and five per cent growth within outdoor footwear.

While Sports Direct is still the retailer of choice for females, they are much more likely to purchase in outdoor specialists than males.

Strong product selection, knowledgeable staff, competitive prices and a welcoming shopping environment are essential elements for retailers targeting female shoppers.

The NPD Group monitors the sales of sports footwear and apparel in many countries around the world. For more information contact the NPD Group sports team on 01932 355580.

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