Retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, internet, specialty) declined 7% compared to last May, to $418 million from  $448 million, according to the most recent edition of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report.  Sales for the first five months of the year totaled $1.8 billion, down 5% from the same period in 2008.

Specialty store sales declined 8% in units and 9% in dollars this May. The OIA said deflationary pressures may be coming into play in as specialty retailers strived to move product and compete against the chain and online channels. So far this year, units have fallen 6%, average retail prices 4% and dollars 10%. Comparing this May to last, both equipment and apparel experienced double-digit dollar declines while equipment accessories and footwear weren’t far behind with single-digit drops. Categories with positive dollar gains this month included dresses (+65%), hiking boots (+9%), multisport shoes (+18%) and energy food (+19%).

After a strong showing in April, outdoor chain store sales fell 11% in units and 10% in dollars this May.  Products that appeal to family and car campers fared relatively well when compared to most equipment and accessory categories. Recreation tent units grew 6% this month while synthetic fill rectangular sleeping bags edged up 4%. Year-to-date, mid-sized packs remained up 4% in units and 10% in dollars. Positively, hiking boots were ahead of the previous YTD period by 7% in units and 10% in dollars.

Outdoor internet sales totaled $95M this month, sliding 6% in units, jumping 12% in average retail-selling price and gaining 5% in dollars. Internet sales in 2009 have been sporadic at best; up 35% in January on huge carryover sales, down 9% in February, back up 14% in March, down 17% in April and now up 5% in May. Most remarkable is the dramatic increase in average retail-selling prices. Higher retail prices for equipment, equipment accessories and footwear may indicate a drying up of excess merchandise and/or online retailers reducing the amount of low-margined clearance product they are willing to sell. If this is the case, units may be declining but profit per turn could increase.

Core paddlesport stores (specialty, chain, Internet) had $54M in retail sales this May and $139M so far in 2009, dropping 11% and 6%, respectively, against the same period last year.  Approximately 41,500 boats were sold for $30M at retail this month, an 11% unit and 16% dollar decline from May 2008. Year-to-date all boat sales slipped 8% and 10% in units and dollars, respectively.