Areas of the U.S. outdoor and sports industry experienced unprecedented highs during the past year and a half, as consumers sought refuge outdoors during the pandemic.
This behavior is not a flash in the pan; in fact, equipment sales at sports specialty retail grew by 23 percent in the first half of 2021, compared to the same pre-pandemic period in 2019, according to The NPD Group.
Contributing to this performance were 17 percent gains in brick-and-mortar store retail sales revenue and a 31 percent rise in e-commerce, across the combined categories of camping, climbing, water sports, protective gear, and accessories.
Diving into the retail channel breakdown reveals that sales growth in several add-on and accessory-related categories at specialty outlets outpaced regional and national retailers.
Within the specialty market, sport racks grew by 100 percent and shelters by 76 percent in the first half of the year versus 2019.
Also growing faster in the specialty market were personal floatation devices, wet suits, and other water sports apparel; camp accessories, including portable heaters, showers, and toilets; and sleeping bag accessories such as blankets and liners, as well as tools and coolers.
“The areas where specialty retail really seems to thrive today is in the add-on categories tied to enhancing comfort and convenience,” said Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst at NPD. “After making the basic, fundamental investments to get outdoors, consumers are now turning to the expertise of specialty outlets and their sales associates to extend the experience and make it more comfortable.”