Retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, Internet, specialty) grew 2% compared to last April, moving from $339 million to $347 million, according to the most recent edition of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report. Sales for the year-to-date period were $1.4 billion, down 5% from the same period in 2008.

According to the report, Chain stores saw sales increase 18% for the month of April with gains in every major product category – equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear.  Products that appeal to families and car campers fared especially well.

In specialty stores, total sales fell 4% compared to April 2008. So far this year, all specialty sales declined 10%, according to the report. Each major product category saw single-digit declines compared to last April. Synthetic sleeping bags, medium-sized packs, climbing gear, multisport shoes, hiking boots and various equipment accessory categories posted sales gains in spite of the tough business environment.

According to OIA, Internet sales slipped 17% in dollars. The report states that Internet sales have been sporadic, up 35% in January on huge carryover sales, down 9% in February, back up 14% in March and now down 17% in April. Higher retail-selling prices across many categories coupled with dramatically smaller carryover sales point to either a lack of available merchandise and/or online retailers reining in the amount of rock-bottom clearance priced product they are offering.
Hands-on hydration, consisting mostly of water bottles, is now an $89 million category across all store channels in the current rolling year. However, OIA sees the category reaching the height of its growth after a meteoric rise last year. While still up 15% in specialty-store units and 28% dollars so far this year, the report indicates that the hands-on hydration category dropped 10% in units and 2% in dollars in specialty stores compared to April 2008.

The latest report said core paddlesports stores sold $36 million worth of merchandise in April and $86 million so far in 2009, dropping 1% and 3%, respectively, against the same period last year. Sales of all boats were $21 million this month, down 2% compared to last year. However, both recreation kayaks and canoes has a sales increase compared to last April. Sales of canoes increased 5% in units, 4% in retail price and 9% in total dollars this month.