Hammocks go social and sales surge with lighter models, warmer winters and a boom on college campuses.
By Charles Lunan
It’s hammock season, but don’t expect them to hang around too long, particularly if you’re in a college town.
Sales of hammocks have grown by about half in the last three years in terms of units and more than a third in terms of dollars and they are not slowing down, according to SSI Data*. In fact, sales grew more than twice as fast last year as they did in 2014. At that pace, sporting goods retailers’ sales of hammocks and hammock accessories are poised to easily surpass $100 million this year. The growth is being driven by multiple trends ranging from:
• The rise of hammocking as a social activity, particularly among college students
• Shorter warmer winters
• Tighter budgets and Adventure travel
Brands deserve credit for developing modular systems that enable cash-strapped 20-somethings to buy a starter hammock for $70 to relax on campus, add a mosquito net later for $80 and a fly for $90. Warmers thatthat can be clipped above and below a hammock have not only extend the hammock camping season, but created the opportunity for additional add-on sales of as much as $300.
If 2015 is any guide, retailers can expect hammock sales to grow rapidly over the coming nine weeks toward their biennial peak in late May. By then, unit sales will have reached about four times their current level.
If your retail store sells out of stock before May, don’t sweat it. Hammock sales will begin climbing again in November before peaking the third week of December. Hammocks, it appears, have become a popular holiday gift. SGB takes a look at the top trends affecting the category.
Hammocking Gets Social
The most prominent trend driving hammock sales is also among the most ironic. Adored by baby boomers as a bastion of backyard solitude, hammocking has been embraced by millennials as a favored group activity. Many college campuses now have hammocking clubs and a growing number of universities, colleges and parks are building paddocks, or “hammock lounges,” in a bid to protect landscaping. When students began stacking their hammocks six deep up to 30 feet off the ground, a few universities responded by restricting or even banning their use.
Hammock maker Eagle Nest Outfitters responded last fall by launching a slimmed down version of the ENOpod, a stand it had developed for festivals that can accommodate up to three hammocks. The new version can be broken down into 12 pieces for easy shipping and assembly.
Hammocking also is catching on with athletic teams said Kevin Kaiser, president and founder of Grand Trunk, which started in 2002 by launching The Traveling Hammock. “Student groups are forming around ‘mocking’. It is reaching everyone from professional athletes to music festivalgoers.”
After years spent overcoming Americans’ fears that hammocks are inclined to flip or bad for the back and neck, hammock tent makers have been able to focus on making them more comfortable and versatile.
Hennessy Hammocks offers big-and-tall versions of most of its hammock tents that can accommodate people up to seven feet and 300 pounds. Much of the recent innovation has focused on enhancing warmth.
This spring, Therm-a-Rest launched its Slacker Hammock Warmer, $70, which uses a reflective seven-ounce blanket to redirect
body heat escaping through the bottom of its single and double hammocks.
Kammok, a Texas-based brand that got its start on Kickstarter, but is now sold by a few hundred brick-and-mortar stores, is pre-selling its Koala “underquilt” on its online store for $329. The Koala uses the brand’s proprietary Insotect Flow insulation technology to ensure heat spreads rapidly for “optimal toastiness.”
Interestingly, SSI Data* shows hammock sales grew faster in northern climets over the last two years, including the Pacific Northwest, which experienced one of its driest and warmest winters in a century in 2014/15.
The Next Frontier: Portable Tree Houses
Tentsile, a U.K.-based brand whose founder was inspired by tree houses, could be opening a new frontier of growth with its line of suspended shelters. The tents feature a triangular floor made from a 240-denier nylon/polyester composite that is ratcheted into place above the ground using heavy-duty webbing. A mesh canopy and 190-denier rainfly are added to create a suspended shelter.
Tentsile’s Stingray Tree Tent, $675, can accommodate three adults, or two adults and two children. Given that it weighs 19 pounds and can take 45 minutes to erect, the Stingray is an unlikely backcountry option, but it could cause some young families to give car camping another look. The fact that a dozen people can sit comfortably in the shade underneath the floor with headroom to spare makes it an appealing solution for team sports, family reunions and festivals.
Custom Prints The pace of innovation is likely to accelerate as brands seek to distinguish themselves in a growing, but increasingly crowded market. REI.com offered 16 hammock tents from seven brands last week, albeit a fraction of the 182 backpacking tents from 14 brands available on the site.
One of Grand Trunk’s more successful innovations has been offering its classic parachute nylon hammocks in eight custom prints. Even as hammocking has emerged as a popular group activity, the brand recognized hammocks presented a great way for its customer to express their individually, said Kaiser.
*SSI Data, powered by SportsOneSource, collects and analyzes point-of-sale data from more than 20,000 retail doors across nine channels of distribution. To learn more call 303.997.7302.
Photos courtesy Eagle Nest Outfitters