According to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report, October retail sales for all core outdoor stores (chain, internet, specialty) gained 8% in dollars compared to October 2007. All four major product categories (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear) grew in October. The largest increases came from apparel and equipment.

Comparing dollar sales growth October 2008 to October 2007:

  • Outdoor chain +9%
  • Outdoor internet +33%
  • Outdoor specialty -3%
  • Paddlesports -5%

In specialty stores, equipment, equipment accessories and footwear each lost ground compared to last October. However, apparel sales, which generated 64% of all specialty dollar sales in October, rose 7% in dollars. Outerwear, water bottles and winter boots showed the largest gains in specialty stores this month.

Core chain stores grew 9% in total unit and dollar sales this October, with dollar growth coming from all four major categories (equipment, equipment accessories, apparel and footwear). As in specialty stores, apparel was by far the biggest seller in core chains. All apparel accounted for 48% of October sales in core chains, while equipment accounted for 10%, equipment accessories accounted for 26% and footwear 18%.

Outdoor internet stores grew 31% in units and 33% in dollars from last October, moving from 19% of all core outdoor retail dollars in October 2007 to 23% this month. Online retailers enjoyed across-the-board growth as all four major product categories and most sub-categories saw healthy unit and dollar growth for the period.

All paddle product sales from all three channels (specialty, chain, internet) fell 5% in dollars on even unit sales as retail prices dropped 5%. Paddle specialty stores lost 5% in overall units and 8% in dollars for the period. Overall chain paddlesport dollar sales were flat as units increased 10% but retail prices decreased 9%, caused by a shift in product mix toward smaller, less-expensive products. The internet channel saw October sales increase 44% in units and 35% in dollars. However, internet sales accounted for only 9% of all October core paddlesport retail dollar sales.

While early predictors show evidence of a decline in specific outdoor channels starting in November 2008, outdoor industry sales have remained fairly robust since the nation officially entered a recession in December 2007; posting a healthy 9.6% increase overall and outpacing traditional retail markets.

According to report, the relatively inexpensive and convenient outdoor vacation has remained appealing to core outdoor shoppers throughout the year and may be the industry's bright spot as consumers look to the outdoors as an escape from the pressures of daily life. Internet sales showed a robust 21.6% growth since December 2007 and core chain and specialty stores remained healthy, growing at 10.0% and 4.7% respectively.

All core outdoor stores were up 6% in total unit sales and 9% in dollar sales year to date. In YTD dollars, all equipment increased 10%, equipment accessories 11%, apparel 9% and footwear 4%.

According to trendspotter and OIA Rendezvous keynote speaker Marian Salzman, the only businesses in which she would consider investing right now are soup and camping. Her reasoning is that Americans will be looking to escape the long-term economic turmoil and constant barrage of the media by returning to low-cost, simple activities that involve the entire family. If this prediction holds true, as it has in the past, businesses that support cycling, camping, hiking, fishing and paddling activities may be very well positioned for several years.