Over the past weeks, the Editors at SGB Executive reached out to dozens of executives across the Active Lifestyle Market to share their Outlook for 2022. Here is the first of a three-part series that gauges what the industry’s key leaders think will or will not happen in 2022.

Today is Part One, tomorrow Part Two and on Monday, January 10, Part Three.*

•Mike Ballardie, CEO, Slinger 
A lot is going on in the world, as we all know, but at Slinger, we are looking forward to a high-growth 2022 for a few reasons – the increase in participation and interest in tennis and other fast-growing racquet sports across the globe and our recent technology acquisitions and evolution into a connected sports company. We are doubling down on tennis this year with a new AI-powered analysis app for tennis players of all ages and, at the same time, will be entering new sports verticals with new ball launchers and technology innovations.

We are driven by our ‘Watch, Play, Learn’ positioning, which essentially breaks down each sport’s key commercial consumer activities into those three buckets. With every development and innovation at Slinger, our goal is to serve a consumer in at least one and ideally two or three of these areas. The acquisitions mentioned above of Foundation Tennis, Gameface.AI and PlaySight have opened up opportunities outside of our core product focus, from streaming and media content to data capture and collection, high-level sports analysis, and more. On the technology side, we are most excited about the convergence we are seeing with AI, specifically data capture to support humans (and, in our case, tennis players) in real-time.

Tennis as an industry sometimes suffers from fragmentation, with multiple governing bodies operating unilaterally compared to other sports with single professional leagues. We believe this opens up an opportunity to serve today’s tennis enthusiasts with a consolidated platform is important – they want to watch, play and learn tennis and our goal is to help them do just that.

At the higher level, I expect to see significant consolidation within the sports tech industry, which started to pick up steam in 2020.

•Melanie Cox, CEO, Backcountry
At Backcountry, our outlook for 2022 is cautious due to continued impact from COVID variants and supply chain constraints but optimistic due to the increased volume of new outdoor participants over the past two years. In 2022 Backcountry will continue to execute our omnichannel strategy by delivering our modern take on brick & mortar retail. Bringing our brand to life in a tangible way in key markets is a major priority for the year and will allow us to meet the demands of our ever-evolving customers better.

Backcountry is focusing heavily on “newness” for 2022. We see the opportunity to participate in new adjacent categories and expand our offering within existing categories. We see the business evolving from a traditional two-season per year business to a four-season business and having new, fresh product is critical to keeping our customers engaged. 

Customer preferences are evolving quickly, and our products have to perform well and look good at the same time. In 2022 it is absolutely crucial to understand the customer’s lifestyle needs and show up in the right way and the right places. We are excited to introduce our customers to new brands and new products that will provide the performance, style, and versatility they demand and the expert advice they depend on to make the complex and considered purchases simple.

We know from our own experiences that the outdoors is the perfect anecdote to the unpredictable and sometimes scary world we live in today, and after 25 years, we still make it our mission to make the outdoors accessible to all.

•Karen McSorley, Brand Manager, Kodiak
At Kodiak, we are entering 2022 cautiously optimistic. We certainly feel that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, yet we understand that we will continue to face supply chain challenges for many months to come. And we have a strong level of confidence in the products we’ve designed and built for 2022 in that it supports the increased level of consumers who have looked to the outdoors during the pandemic as an outlet for wellness and physical fitness.

An extension of pandemic-driven consumer actions in the outdoors keeps sustainability at the forefront of our minds as we design and develop new styles in our safety and outdoor footwear collections. We’ve advanced our Built for What Matters initiative to build all of our products in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner. This is an ongoing effort on the part of Kodiak to deliver on our commitment to continuous improvements and progress towards minimizing our environmental footprint. Combined, our fall 2022 line of safety boots and our Spring and Fall 2022 outdoor products incorporate more eco-considered materials than we’ve used in prior seasons. This is an exciting advancement for us in our journey as a 111-year-old company that speaks to our ongoing ability to adapt and respond to both prevailing and unforeseen market conditions.

•Adrien Mercier, Creative Services and Marketing Manager, Bern Helmets
At Bern, we are extremely optimistic for 2022. The coalescence of COVID and the burgeoning micro-mobility market has seen massive growth and adoption by thrill-seekers, consumers looking for a more eco-friendly way to travel or those that no longer use public transport. As a multisport helmet brand, including snow sports, bike, water sports, and micro-mobility, there has been a silver lining to the world pandemic and our business. We are excited about the future of all of our segments and see great potential in sustaining the growth by focusing on inclusivity and accessibility. We are partnering with adaptive sports programs and veteran enthusiasts to bring the message of outdoor adventuring to people of all abilities and backgrounds. Our industry is booming, and it is important to continue with a social responsibility platform and also steward new enthusiasts to enjoy exercise, thrill-seeking, and casual rides to the fullest.

•Monica Mirro, President, Prana
As we begin our journey into 2022, the Prana team is optimistic about what is on the horizon. Over the past two years, consumers took solace in the outdoors, inspiring and invigorating both mind and body, a sentiment which we expect will continue growing over time. We will continue to delight our consumers with products that bring a sense of ease, comfort and functionality and are excited to be launching ReZion this month, the newest evolution of our Stretch Zion collection, a bestselling category throughout the industry. Consumers will find that these elevated versions of their favorite pants and shorts push performance, fit and style to the next level, all with a recycled nylon fabric that lets them tread lightly as they explore the world around them. In addition, we’ve planned large-scale brand awareness activities that you won’t want to miss as we begin preparations for our 30th anniversary in 2023. As you can see, there’s much to look forward to.” 

•Dave Newey, Vice President, Atlantic British
Our outlook for 2021 is very bright. Despite the devastating results from the COVID pandemic that continue to rise, people are figuring out how to cope but also seek new ways to find joy and meaning in their lives from a healthy distance. We are lucky to offer products that help people get outdoors, explore, maintain their vehicles, and enjoy new experiences with close family and friends.

2020 and 2021 were record-breaking sales years for our 50-year old company; however, this brought about huge challenges for our team, supply chains, inventory management, and shipping logistics, and our e-commerce platforms. We have had to adapt and change the way we do business. We expect that the demand for vehicle-based, outdoor travel will continue to grow in 2022 and as demand grows, so too will the industry bringing with it new innovations, new products, new brands, and new ways to enjoy the outdoors from the comfort of our vehicles.

We see long-term changes taking hold across vehicle design, infrastructure, land management, conservation, sustainability, and the area where the seasoned outdoor industry meets the newly developing Overlanding industry. Consumers have a new option for how to get outdoors and where to spend their disposable income while staying socially distanced for the short term. The challenge continues to be how to manage for the short-term but forecast and plan for the long-term during these tumultuous times.

•Aaron Provine, President, Geartrade
Since relaunching Geartrade in 2019, we’ve seen growing interest and engagement in the used gear market. 2022 projects to continue this trend exponentially. More than ever, consumers are looking for ways to upgrade their gear and apparel in a climate-conscious way that doesn’t break the bank. Geartrade gives buyers and sellers an opportunity to participate in the circular economy by passing on last season’s gear, keeping it in use while earning some extra cash. Geartrade’s consignment program and intuitive user interface make all of this easier than ever, and we’ll continue to improve upon it in 2022 while also staying true to our Climate Neutral Certification.

•Nathan Pund, Managing Director, Houlihan Lokey
I believe 2022 will be an excellent year for the outdoor and active lifestyle industry. Despite what I foresee as continuing challenges and hardships from COVID and the uncertainty surrounding the supply chain, the consumer has embraced a healthier, more active lifestyle, and our industry’s products and experiences fit ideally with those ideals and desires.

I believe 2022 will represent another robust year of M&A and investment activity in the outdoor and active lifestyle space. Strategic buyers continue to seek companies with strong brands and strong product offerings. Financial investors, flush with a record amount of capital to invest, will be especially active as they, too, seek to back compelling business in the industry.

•Nick Sargent, President, SIA
If we have learned anything in the last year, the most significant threats are the ones we can’t see. From climate change to COVID, this industry must be proactive and intentional in forging a path for the future success of the winter outdoors.

SIA believes the business imperative is clear and is providing its members with the tools and resources to tackle some of the biggest issues and opportunities facing the winter outdoor industry, including:

  • Consumer Insights – SIA is leading the industry with consumer data and insights, including Monthly Consumer Insights, annual reports on the impacts of COVID on participation and new this year, a study on the NextGen of Winter Participants providing insights into growing participation within audiences traditionally underrepresented in winter outdoor sports.
  • Consumer Engagement – Through the Snowbound consumer platform, including the Snowbound Festivals in Fall 2022, Snowbound channel on FUEL TV and other Snowbound-related activations, SIA is directly connected to the winter enthusiast.
  • ClimateLab – Provides a proven and achievable roadmap, tools and guidance needed to build and execute an effective climate action strategy for your business.
  • Inclusion – A thriving industry is an inclusive industry. SIA is charting a path for the winter outdoor industry with free online inclusion training, monthly meet-ups and educational town halls.

The future of the winter outdoors is in our hands. In 2022, we need to continue to work together to create positive change. 

•Noah Swartz, CEO and Co-founder, Erem
2022 will be a very important and exciting year for Erem. Our brand will launch three products and roll out several partnerships with both best-in-class nonprofits and some other brands and individuals that we admire. We received fantastic support and reception in 2021 for our initial launch. We can’t wait to build on this momentum in 2022 in our pursuit to provide best-in-class gear for the desert, to raise the sustainability bar for the outdoor industry and identify and scale desert solutions to some of the planet’s most pressing challenges, including through our Prickly Pear program.

Speaking of challenges, despite all of our best hopes, 2022 appears to be another complex year in manufacturing and global supply chains. We expect this will only be exacerbated for an emerging business like ours that has very particular sourcing standards, largely fueled by our Biocircular standard in which we use only materials in our products that have proven paths back to nature and that can be re-streamed into responsible next lives including new Erem products. Already, in the opening days of this year, we see sourcing shutdowns due to the Omicron variant that will surely impact product timelines.

Nonetheless, a silver lining from the pandemic is that it is encouraging more people to spend time outdoors, including, of course, our favorite desert landscapes. While this is mostly a positive reality in its own right and will hopefully translate into increased conservation and awareness around outdoor stewardship, including more sustainable consumer practices, it is also proving a boon for business in our industry. Thus, demand is up, while sourcing becomes harder. A strange business reality.”

*To contribute your comments for consideration for the next two installments of the Active Lifestyle Market 2022 Vision, please submit by email to SGB Executive Senior Business Editor Thomas J. Ryan.