The December 2009 edition of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report found that retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, internet, specialty) dropped 1% compared to last December, moving from $1.07 billion from $1.06 billion. Weather-appropriate categories saw healthy sales; compared to December 2008, all insulated tops gained 11% in dollar sales, softshell tops grew 2%, apparel accessories jumped 8 percent and winter boots were up 9%. Full-year sales (January – December 2009) totaled $5B, down 2% from 2008.

After a warm November, winter returned to the United States with a vengeance in December. Record-breaking cold temperatures and several major winter storms moved across the country during the month. Several major cities, including Philadelphia, Washington, and Oklahoma City, had their snowiest Decembers on record.

Outdoor Specialty

All that cold and snow may have affected holiday-shopping traffic on specific days and specific regions, but the net effect was positive for outdoor specialty retailers, who saw total sales up 3% from last December, with significant dollar gains coming from outerwear, apparel accessories and winter boots. Outerwear sales were up 3% from last December, apparel accessories such as hats, gloves and socks were up 12% and winter boots were up 26%. Together, all outerwear, apparel accessories and winter boots accounted for 59% of December specialty dollar sales. Other categories saw positive momentum in December as well; synthetic fill mummy bags, small and medium packs and multiple winter equipment categories increased sales compare to last December. Looking at all of 2009 as a whole, specialty store sales fell 3% in units and 4% in dollars. Footwear outperformed most product categories in 2009. Hiking boots, winter boots and multisport shoes all increased sales over 2008.

Outdoor Chain

In contrast, chain dollar sales slid 6% compared to last December, moving from $349M to $326M. However, chain stores did manage to outpace December 2007 sales, which came in at $325M. Comparing this December to last, nearly every product category lost dollar sales. There were bright spots, as specific products continued to resonate with consumers. Softshell jackets gained 8% in total dollar sales, assisted by an 18 percent boost in sales of woman-specific styles; women’s styles accounted for 34% of total softshell unit sales this December, up from 32% last December. Multiple equipment accessory categories hit the mark as well; categories with dollar growth over last December included energy food, luggage, tools and camp accessories. For the entire year, chains slipped 3% overall with declines coming from equipment, equipment accessories and apparel. Footwear, assisted by healthy growth in hiking boots, winter boots and multisport shoes, grew 2 percent in total dollar sales for the period.

Outdoor Internet

December 2009 online sales could not match those of December 2008. Total dollar sales dropped 5% from $196M to $186M. However, the channel continued long-term growth as online sales came out 7% ahead of December 2007. Comparing this December to last, medium packs, climbing gear and multiple winter equipment and camp accessory categories increased sales. On the soft-goods side, growth came from insulated outerwear tops, softshell outerwear tops, hiking boots, winter boots, multisport shoes, socks, handwear, and a handful of sportswear categories. Positively, online sales increased 4% for the entire year, moving from $968M in 2008 to $1B in 2009.


Core paddlesport stores (specialty, chain, internet) brought in $14M in December and $338M for all of 2009. Sales were up 4% for December, but lost 7% for the entire year. Off-season sales continued to come out ahead of last year; compared to December 2008, all specialty and chain store sales both increased 5% in total dollar sales. Categories outpacing last December’s sales in specialty stores included recreation kayaks, whitewater kayaks and multiple accessory categories.