According to Outdoor Industry Association, retail sales for all chain, Internet and specialty outdoor stores declined 6% in August of 2009 compared the same month in 2008, declining from $346 million to $325 million. Year-to-date sales (January – August 2009) totaled $2.9 billion, down 5% from the same period a year ago.

In spite of slow August sales, some categories continued to show growth. A renewed interest in camping and outdoor vacations did not slow in August, as many National Parks continued to see record attendance. In addition, consumers are still looking for new and exciting opportunities for close-to-home recreation and the outdoor industry has been able to capitalize on this trend.

A final trend that is impacting consumer behavior is the desire for quality. While conspicuous consumption is dead, consumers are willing to pay a little more for brands that they can trust and will stand up to years of abuse, a trend seen as beneficial to outdoor brands.

This trend spurred sales of backpacking tents, medium sized packs (2,500 – 4,000 cubic inches), climbing gear, trekking poles and multiple camp accessory categories. In the footwear categories, hiking boots and multi-sport shoes grew again in August. Energy food also maintained its momentum in 2009, growing 20% in August.

Outdoor Specialty store sales fell 8% for the month compared to the same period last year.  There were declines in all four major product categories – equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear.
Recreation tents, energy food, hiking boots, multi-sport shoes and trail running shoes were all growth categories for specialty retailers in August.

Outdoor Chain total sales were down 7% for the month. The healthiest growth came from hiking boots, multi-sport shoes, trail runners and energy food. Chain stores also saw multiple apparel categories increase sales as short-sleeved shirts, sleeveless shirts, dresses and skirts all outsold August 2008. Women helped drive gains in insulated tops, as well as in the dress and skirt categories, while men’s products fueled growth in the short-sleeved shirt and sleeveless shirt categories.
According to the report, Internet sales were flat in August in spite of a 10% increase in average selling prices.


Increased hard good sales balanced out losses in apparel and footwear in August. Both equipment and equipment accessories gained dollar sales, assisted by double-digit increases in average retail selling prices. Tents, sleeping bags, medium and large packs and climbing gear were all strong categories. Unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, online retailers did not sell as many hiking boots this month as in August 2008. However, multi-sport shoes performed well.

Paddlesports stores have seen very few silver linings in 2009. Specialty, chain and Internet paddlesports stores sales were down 13% in August; losses were felt across the board, as all store channels and essentially all product categories declined.