September 12, 2011 – National economic uncertainty and the destructive power of Hurricane Irene did little to slow retail sales of outdoor products in the fiscal month of August.  Outdoor product sales for the four-week month ending August 27, 2011 grew 7.6 percent to $900.8 million according to the OIA VantagePoint™ monthly trend report for August.

“Stock market instability, anemic job growth and destructive weather patterns along the eastern seaboard did not significantly impact outdoor consumers buying decisions,” said OIA Vice President of Business Intelligence LaRae Marsik.

Among the channels tracked by SportScanInfo™ for OIA VantagePoint™, sales in the Independent Outdoor Specialty channel soared 19.6 percent for the month.  This was more than four times the increase seen in the broader retail market, which reported consolidated comps of 4.6 percent.  Footwear was again the primary driver of the overall growth for the month, but all major categories — Outdoor Hardgoods, Outdoor Apparel and Outdoor Footwear — posted gains every week of the month.

Retail sales of Outdoor Hardgoods hit $538.3 million in fiscal August, a 4.5 percent increase that was roughly equal to the mid‐single‐digit gain seen in July. Back-to-school sales of Daypacks (both Lifestyle and Technical) more than offset weaker sales in some core categories like Tents and Sleeping Bags.

Outdoor Apparel retail sales grew 4.0 percent to $170.2 million for the month on the strength of business in the Independent Outdoor Specialty channel.  For the first time this year, the growth trend for Outdoor Apparel outpaced the trend in Outdoor Footwear in specialty stores.

On the heels of a very strong July, Outdoor Footwear grew yet again by over 21 percent to $192.3 million. The category shift toward lightweight footwear is being felt even among back-to-school consumers.  Some of the more broadly‐sold outdoor footwear categories like Trail Running, Outdoor Sandals and Light Hiking have given up share to the lightweight footwear product that is now producing significant gains in Natural/Minimalist Footwear, Outdoor XT and Multi‐Sport and Approach Footwear.

Looking forward, patterns among back-to-school shoppers may offer some insights for outdoor product retailers.

“Parents may continue to invest in the needs (or wants) of their kids while pulling back on expenditures for themselves,” said Marsik. “This could negatively impact sales of personal high‐end purchases like skis this fall, while requests from the kids for the latest‐and‐greatest outdoor‐branded jacket or a new pair of lightweight shoes may be addressed.”

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