Outdoor participation is down 1 billion adventures.

The  Outdoor Foundation’s much-awaited Outdoor Participation Report was released a couple weeks back coinciding with the annual Outdoor Retailer show; it revealed some hard truths for retailers in the Outdoor Industry. Less than half of the US population ventured outdoors in 2018 - hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing among other adventures - a stat that has been increasing over time. In 2018, Americans went on about 1 billion fewer outdoor adventures than in 2008. Children, in particular, are at the source of this decrease with about 15% fewer outdoor outings since 2012. Who is going outside then? And how do we bring Americans back to the great outdoors? 

The Outdoor Foundation focuses on increasing participation of outdoor activity near homes as the report shows that about 63% of Americans preferred adventuring within 10 miles of their residence. “Being outdoors” is no longer for lone hikers in the wilderness with lots of gear. And so, if outdoors-affiliated brands want to see continued sales growth (or even just stability) then they need to understand and adapt to their new customers, and meet those customers where they are looking to buy.

And it turns out, according to SNEWS that isn’t on Amazon: “Amazon sucks at selling authentic gear.” Amazon doesn’t lead on price, doesn’t offer the same type and quality of gear, and for a first-time outdoor adventurer, absolutely doesn’t offer the same kind of guidance you find in physical retail. But in-store customers have the expectation that associates can answer their questions, that they can demo and try out a product, that they understand cost, options, warranties, and what mix of gear is a right fit for their needs. ThirdChannel data shows that when consumers interact with an authentic, knowledgeable brand rep, it drives 63% higher sell through in outdoor-focused brands. 

Another one of the focus areas for the Outdoor Participation Report is on the increase of outdoor adventures by minority populations. Female participation in outdoor activities has increased by 3.2% since last year. Another minority with a strong increase in participation is the Hispanic community. Hispanics are outdoors twice as much as they were a decade ago. These groups are also enjoying the outdoors in a different way. Big group hikes, family gatherings, special cultural events - all family and group-oriented, with participation across age range and abilities. A critical new component of effective selling in stores requires you get  visibility to understand who your demographic is, which varies from retailer to retailer and across different regions of the country, to determine if your brand is offering the right mix of products - or even offering those products - to reach and attract buyers.

The experience at retail is more than just putting a product on a shelf and having it sell, especially for outdoor-oriented brands with products that are complex and experience, where customers may spend big bucks on a tent, backpack, water that they expect to last 5, 10 years. It’s the last mile of the sale that matters to determine what your brand presence truthfully looks like in retail. Understand that last mile is wildly important - it can even produce data that can inform your brand all the way back to R&D, answering the question if you’ve even developed the right product that customers are interested in purchasing. 

ThirdChannel offers that on-the-ground visibility that can provide insights that help determine whether or not an outdoor brand is set up for not only maintaining, but growing sales, even in the toughest market climates. If you are interested in discovering more, click below to read case studies from Oakley, New Balance, Mission, and more. 

Published by Nick Ahrens, VP Sales and Strategy February 11, 2020
Nick Ahrens, VP Sales and Strategy