Grassroots Outdoor Alliance (GOA), the trade group comprised of independently owned outdoor specialty retailers that run the semi-annual Connect trade show, reported its retailer members as a whole were down 6.0 percent in 2023 compared to 2022. Sales for 2022 grew in the high-single-digits compared to 2021, a record year for the Alliance.

Gabe Maier, president of the GOA, told SGB Media that 30 percent of Grassroots members stores saw double-digit sales declines year-over-year (YoY), while 14 percent of stores saw a sales increase of 3 percent or more.

The Alliance’s consolidated gross margin was down 174 basis points YOY in 2023.

“At first blush, these numbers paint a more bleak picture than we believe is the reality of the marketplace right now,” Maier suggested. “We tracked comp sales back to 2019 and found that 2023 total sales were up 26.7 percent from 2019 to 2023.”

Moving into 2024, Maier said Grassroots members anticipate more stability in the marketplace for both retailers and vendors as comping against 2022 was always seen as a tough ask for any established business in outdoor.

“Through February, our aggregate sales as a group are down 3.6 percent versus 2023, with much of the decline coming from retailers in the Rockies and West, Maier shared.

Grassroots is now home to 97 outdoor specialty retailers, with 210 locations. Maier said one member store, Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis, MN, closed last year, and four others changed ownership to a new generation of owners. He said succession planning has been a constant drumbeat with members, and three to four additional transitions are in progress this year.

Image courtesy GOA