Rebounding slightly from a stagnant August, outdoor product retail sales growth increased at a snail's pace in September, tied to still-warm weather patterns, lingering weakness in the economy and continued lack of consumer confidence.


According to retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanInfo for OIA VantagePoint, the Official Research of the Outdoor Industry, total outdoor product sales were up 2.3% in September to $820.6 million compared to $802.3 million for the comparable five-week period last year.


Sales through outdoor specialty channels were actually down slightly, though Internet/Catalog and Department Store channels showed hopeful signs as back-to-school shoppers waited for school to be in session before choosing what to buy. In addition, some analysts married the increase in Internet sales to the narrowing of brand offerings on the shelves of many retailers who have to make tough decisions between a broader product selection and continuing tight credit issues.

Many outdoor companies have seen sales soften as consumers are buying based on “need versus want” criteria,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association. “As close-to-home participation in outdoor activities continues to grow, we are definitely seeing that impact in product sales, though we're keeping a keen eye on how consumers are choosing a more immediate, buy-now use-now approach with the products they are purchasing.”

In support of the weather argument, a cold snap across much of the country during the first week of October led to a nearly 44% increase in Outdoor Apparel sales compared to the last week of fiscal September (which ended October 3).

Outdoor Footwear sales declined 1.1% during the retail fiscal month of September, as the lack of colder and wetter weather has consumers holding off on boot purchases.  Winter Boots took the biggest dip, falling by more than a third as Sandals continued to sell well into the month.

Outdoor Apparel sales declined in the low-single-digits again in September, though Outdoor Apparel sales in the Independent Outdoor Specialty channel crept upwards 0.4% to $45 million for the month. Outdoor Sportswear products were negatively affected by the new ¡°need versus want¡± approach that is currently driving consumer spending, and the lack of colder temperatures saw Outdoor Outerwear (specifically Insulated Tops) and Base Layers dropping by larger than expected margins as well.

The Outdoor Hardgoods business was a mixed bag in September as kids heading back to school and sports enthusiasts eager to tailgate started looking for new gear. Sales of Daypacks enjoyed a mid-single-digit increase, with Sling Packs and Laptop Day Packs both posting solid gains.  The only decline in this category was seen in Basic Day Packs. Also, coolers are a fan favorite this time of year, especially for those who are tailgating with friends. The category is up in the mid-single-digits in September, with double-digit gains in the large size sub-categories for each of the four cooler segments.

For a more in-depth discussion around September 2010 retail sales affecting outdoor industry businesses and to get a peek at October's figures thus far, OIA will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, October 21 at 2:00 pm Mountain Time. To register for the webinar, please visit

OIA members can access the OIA VantagePoint monthly trend report for September by logging in to

OIA VantagePoint is the first and only full market point-of-sale data view built specifically for Outdoor Industry Association members.  OIA VantagePoint provides comprehensive visibility into the outdoor marketplace by tracking weekly point-of-sale data from over 10,000 retail doors and websites carrying outdoor products, including over 350 outdoor specialty locations. In-depth sales information is available online within five days of the prior week close – a competitive advantage for businesses who can shift critical resources and react quickly to ever-changing consumer preferences.