OIA released their U.S. Specialty Market Study this week, looking at several key metrics in the outdoor specialty retail market.  The study looks at the overall state of the industry and digs down into the trends and individual categories that are driving success at retail.  According to the study, 2006 industry sales were up 11.3% from 2005 levels with growth in all regions. Southern retailers saw sales grow 14% while western retailers experienced the strongest sales growth, up 16.8%.  Sales in the midwest were up 4.4% and the northeast was up 1.4%.  By product category, sportswear/ baselayers were the strongest category with $1.48 billion in sales, while apparel outerwear accounted for $1.37 billion and footwear came in third with $1.36 billion in sales through specialty retailers.  The largest region for specialty retail sales was the west, with over 39% of the market.  The south was second, with nearly 25%, followed by the northeast and midwest.  Since this study was last conducted in 2000, U.S. specialty retail sales increased 47% to over $7.6 billion.

According to the report, the total number of outdoor and paddlesports specialty stores increased 15% in total storefronts with the majority of the increase in the western states. Compared to regional chains, sporting goods chains and national outdoor chains, total doors have decreased 11.5%.

The OIA study indicates that outdoor specialty retailers account for 62% of the total doors in the industry and 38% of the dollars sold. Chain stores represent 48% of total doors and 52% of sales. Consumer direct through the Internet or catalog account for the remaining 10% of sales.

While close to 9% of outdoor sales now come from on-line retailers compared to 5% in 2000, this increase came at the expense of catalog sales, not brick & mortar retailers.  Internet/catalog sales combined remained steady as an overall percentage of sales at roughly 10% in 2000 and 2007.  Internet dollar sales increased 150% to $670 million compared to $270 million in 2000, roughly 16.5% annually.

Looking ahead, specialty outdoor retailers are optimistic about the remaining five months of the year and anticipate that sales will be up 11.9% in 2007. The report also explores sales activity and brand penetration in several hardgoods and softgoods categories, including apparel, footwear, backpacks and accessories.