Outdoor product sales rose by 4 percent in February 2012, compared to February 2011. That’s good news, even though product sales from January 2012 to February 2012 dipped a little bit in contrast. Preliminary data from Outdoor RetailTRAK reported a 4 percent increase from February 2011. General retail sales have increased by 6.3 percent, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Original press release issued by the Leisure Trends Group on March 19th, 2012

As one of the warmest winters in recent memory drew to an early, unofficial close in February, outdoor retailers enjoyed a much-needed uptick in sales alongside the growth seen at general retail. Preliminary Outdoor RetailTRAK data from Leisure Trends Group report that February 2012 sales increased 4 percent from February 2011.

Comparing this to general retail, the US Commerce Department reported retail sales rose 6.3 percent for the same time period. “While there is nothing we can do about Mother Nature’s effect on winter sales, an early thaw isn’t all bad news for outdoor retailers,” reports Senior Retail Analyst, Elisabeth Stahura. “Consumers appeared to have a bit of spring shopping fever last month and they shopped outdoor stores, snow or no snow.”

Online sales continued to fuel growth, jumping another 14 percent overall for the month versus the same period last year. Specialty brick and mortar stores were up 3 percent. Disappointing apparel sales negated gains in spring-ready hard goods at outdoor chains where sales were flat compared to February 2011.

Consumers appeared to be looking forward to an early spring, as warm-weather appropriate categories such as sportswear, trail running shoes, casual shoes, sandals, tents, sleeping bags, packs and camp accessories saw dollar growth at outdoor retail. However, Stahura notes that it wasn’t all good news, as winter categories saw little to no hope for recovery. “Winter 2011/12 ended with a whimper, and outdoor retailers need to cut their losses on winter inventory,” she cautions. Retailers already worked to move their outerwear out the door; outerwear sales were up in all three channels as stores dealt with excess inventory. When it came to winter boots and winter equipment, consumers were not enticed by a better-than-usual February selection; sales plunged by double-digits in both categories.

Looking ahead to the spring selling season, which officially kicks off in March, Stahura predicts retailers can expect to see continued growth in minimalist, trail and casual shoes, along with the usual uptick in summer sportswear. “Surf-inspired categories and brands will do well in footwear this season and the minimalist category will continue to evolve. Casual shoes will be hot in summer 2012, especially Tom’s,” she hints.

photo: ilker

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