This is the second installment* of SGB Executive’s Annual Survey of what leaders across the active lifestyle space are projecting for 2022.
Read yesterday’s Part One coverage here. The third and final installment will run Monday, January 10.
Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)
Our industry saw legislative wins across the board last year on outdoor recreation, climate and trade continued to embrace climate-friendly business practices, and saw tremendous economic success. We are excited to build on these wins to ensure the outdoor industry, our consumers and the outdoors can continue to thrive. To do that, it is imperative that lawmakers support making the outdoors inclusive and accessible for all Americans, especially in light of the fact that people from all walks of life are getting outside at historic levels, as more urban-dwellers, women, and under-served communities have turned to the outdoors for physical and mental health benefits.
We need to move the needle on climate change, which requires the federal government to join the outdoor industry in adopting climate-smart practices and policies. These policy priorities include the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, investments in climate resiliency and outdoor restoration and funding for an equitable and stable transition to clean energy. And, we need help addressing critical supply chain and trade issues. OIA sent a letter of support to Congress urging movement on the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which would address the shipping issues outdoor companies are facing, and we plan to continue this work into 2022.
Additionally, we are working with the Biden administration and Congress to create a fair and competitive trade environment by lifting tariffs, renewing the Generalized System of Preferences and passing a package of miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs). Finally, we are proud the outdoor industry had a seat at the table throughout the infrastructure and reconciliation negotiations in 2021, which resulted in significant victories. As we enter the new year, we look forward to building on these achievements as we partner with lawmakers to grow the outdoor industry, boost local economies and ensure everyone, regardless of zip code, background or experience, has access to the outdoors.
Alex Adema, President and CEO, DPS Skis and Phantom
The 2021/22 ski season is shaping up to be the best year ever for DPS Skis and Phantom. Naturally, we are living in the ongoing uncertain times of pandemic life. However, snowsports participation remains strong and the current winter season in North America is generally picking up where last year left off, despite the general angst around pandemic travel and supply chain constraints.
We had strong reception to our pipeline of new product launches. The growth in backcountry skiing, in particular, has coincided with our product development cycle, especially with recent launches of our touring skin and tour binding offerings. We’re also excited about the strong growth of the Phantom product line and the continued market adoption among customers buying new skis or snowboards as well as the trend towards the second-hand product market. The challenges of the past two years have required accelerated focus on product innovation and subsequent production efficiency at our Salt Lake City-based factory. The ability to adapt and be resilient has precipitated considerable gains in our efforts to maximize the value of being Made in the USA in light of the supply chain crisis while also enhancing our sustainability initiatives through the continued shortening of our supply chain. Lastly, we continue to focus on cultivating our world-class team to remain competitive and innovative. The tight labor market has been an advantage for DPS and Phantomwhere we have passionate people committed to the special environment that we have. That does keep us on our toes and reaching for initiatives such as the ElevateHER Challenge to improve and strive to remain among the top workplaces in Utah.
John Bastian, Director, Enthusiast Brands & Active Lifestyle, Baird
Almost two years since the world witnessed incredible upheaval, the events of 2020 continue to drive lasting change in consumer behavior in the active lifestyle and outdoor markets. As we make the return to normalcy, consumers continue to take to the outdoors and focus on their health and wellness at record rates and well above pre-pandemic levels. While participation has surged in many pursuits, we remain bullish in 2022 and beyond as consumers have now adopted or re-adopted, these activities as habit. However, despite strong demand, a brand-new set of challenges have emerged for companies serving this sector. We believe companies that have continued to reinvest and focus on their supply chains, pricing strategies, product innovation, omnichannel distribution models, and consumer engagement will separate from the pack in 2022.
Niclas Bornling, Head of Brand and D2C, Houdini
2022 will be the year of the RE. We’ve heard it approaching for quite a few years, but in 2022 the train will finally pull up at the station. I’m talking about the cultural train, accelerated by a global pandemic, climate change and political instability, filled with consumers demanding sustainable and responsible business practices. Houdini has stood there, quite alone, patiently waiting for the train to pull up since the early 2000s, but now we’re no longer alone. The station is full of brands with first-class tickets, broad shoulders and sharp elbows. And they all want (need) to get on that train. So, in 2022 we’ll see an onslaught of REs. Some of them are sincere and some, not so much. We’ll see a massive uptick of RE-use offers, RE-purpose programs and RE-cycled products. 2022 will be the year of the RE. The question is, which ones will be sincere and will the consumer be able to weed out the greenwashers?
Tim Boyle, Chairman, President and CEO, Columbia Sportswear Company
Unfortunately, we’re still in the grip of the pandemic, as variants keep emerging. But it continues to fuel a need for and desire of consumers to go outside, whether that is to hike or just dine at an outdoor restaurant. I’m happy that we’re in the business of making clothing that people want to wear outdoors, whether they are backcountry skiing or taking a walk in the park.
Jeremy Cashman, Director of Marketing and Brand, Klean Kanteen
Overall, our outlook on 2022 is positive. The outdoor industry continues to show resilience and innovation among a slew of challenges including supply chain and distribution disruptions, negative climate impacts, new coronavirus variants, and more.
At Klean Kanteen, we see 2022 as a year for big, industry-shaking changes that create a positive ripple effect in the outdoor industry. Active lifestyle consumers are more often reaching for sustainable options and that will continue as we see the impacts of climate change via devastating fires and other extreme weather patterns. The first thing on Klean’s list in 2022? Upgrading the material we use most, stainless steel, to certified 90 percent post-consumer recycled stainless steel, which will result in a 40 percent reduction in our steel greenhouse gas emissions, 30 percent reduction in energy demand and a 60-to-80 percent reduction in ecosystem impacts. As long as brands in the outdoor industry continue to optimize business practices for the greater good of this planet and its people, the outlook is positive.
Coral Darby, Owner, Darby Communications
With staffing shortages being an issue across the country, our top priority in 2022 is going to be ensuring our employees feel valued. We will accomplish this using a new agency roadmap we’ve developed that recognizes our employees’ successes with greater financial rewards and a strong internal growth path. Additionally, we will continue to implement a smart growth plan that aligns the agency with the right clients who value our work as much as we do theirs. Through these efforts, our agency will be able to create a win-win situation that yields happy clients and a staff that feels appreciated for their contributions to the team and the overall health of the agency.
John Gage, Co-Founder, Appalachian Gear Company
We are seeing a number of trends developing in the market, including a growing concern for sustainability because of the significant increase in awareness of microplastics, as well as human rights issues associated with some of the emerging global economies.
The primary product trends we see upcoming in 2022 are based on the growing consumer demand for more natural fiber options that support sustainability in outdoor performance apparel as well as a re-working of “fit” standards to be more inclusive of a wider variety of body shapes.
2020 & 2021 have seen more consumers wanting to get into open outdoor spaces and a growing interest in outdoor adventure activities like backpacking, climbing, biking, paddling, and exploring our public spaces. We are seeing that experienced AND new outdoor adventure enthusiasts are also looking for companies that mirror their values. We see current and potential customers asking more informed questions regarding corporate values, processes, design, etc. We feel this has translated into a significant trend toward searching out smaller “cottage” industries who are also concerned about the same things – and who are designing “purpose-built” products rather than one-size-fits-all or high-volume products.
John Rogers, Owner, Fleet Feet Maine Running
2021 was an extraordinary year for Fleet Feet Maine Running. Our business is in a strong position as we approach 2022, and we’re still facing challenges but with extreme optimism that growth will continue for our stores.
The biggest optimism is due to the breadth of new runners, walkers and outdoor enthusiasts who are entering our stores and investing in their health and well-being. The increase in participation has created a positive impact on our businesses and an increase in new and returning customers. Our goal is to keep and grow participation and new and returning customers, while we enhance, elevate, and evolve our in-store experience, while retaining and growing our high performing employees.
Sometimes our businesses create and establish challenges, but sometimes challenges are created for us. Certainly, with Covid, supply chain disruptions, employee staffing, recruiting and retention while experiencing unprecedented growth, are all challenges that we have had to face. Supply chain issues have created an inventory management challenge, particularly with franchise models. Continually looking at alternative products to replace compromised models is ongoing. Fortunately, we are in a strong financial position to invest in additional inventory to meet demand and weather these Supply Chain disruptions. Adapting, being nimble and investing in additional Days On Hand inventory for key models, has been a focus and will continue through at least the first half of 2022.
Covid also made businesses re-look at traditional business metrics. Investing more in employee benefits, education, recruiting and a better life/work balance to reward and retain high performing employees. We’ve added both a 401K and profit-sharing program, bonuses for employees hitting certain metrics and more flexibility. Understandably, our payroll metric has risen, while marketing spend and metric has been reduced. Investing in google ads, social media, customer emails and other efficient, targeted ways to reach consumers and our community has been effective. These investments have created a more personalized engagement and connection with consumers and our community, leading to an enhanced in-store experience and will continue in 2022.
Mike Thompson, EVP Marketing, Rawlings
To state the obvious, 2021 was a year of “supply chain strain,” and we fully expect this to continue throughout 2022. On a positive note, we believe consumer demand will remain strong throughout 2022. We are also convinced that consumers are looking to line up with brands they trust, with brands that are authentic and provide product innovation, and deliver best-in-class service.
As we continue to accelerate the integration of two iconic baseball and softball brands—Rawlings and Easton— we remain optimistic with the 2022 business outlook with our retail, team dealer, and eCommerce business channels partners. We are committed to increasing the pace of innovation and bringing performance products to market faster. This would include product offerings from the Little Leagues to the Big Leagues. We will also bolster and invest in our digital marketing activity across all primary digital platforms. Sports marketing alliances are essential to who we are and what we do. To that end, we will continue to be front and center at all levels of both baseball and softball and persist with deepening our relationship roots with partnerships and influencers. We will also focus on driving demand for our retail and eCommerce partners with an intense focus on brand marketing activation. Ultimately, the consumer is at the nucleus of everything we do, and we remain committed to staying and remaining relevant with baseball and softball players on a worldwide basis.
*To contribute your comments for consideration for the last of the three-part installment of the Active Lifestyle Market 2022 Vision, please submit by email to SGB Executive Senior Business Editor Thomas J. Ryan.
Photo courtesy Columbia Sportswear