Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the national organization dedicated to the health and growth of specialty outdoor retail, is releasing final 2020 year-to-year sales data.
With double-digit growth across the group in December, Grassroots retailers finished the 2020 calendar year down -0.34 percent compared to 2019. Regional shutdowns due to the pandemic hit retailers hard in March, April and May of 2020. After those three months, however, many stores’ sales hit the accelerator. From June ‘20 through January ‘21, Grassroots retailers nationwide were up +10.8 percent, buoyed by an +18 percent sales spike in the first month of 2021.
“This was clearly the year of volatility in the outdoor industry. Looking back through our historical sales data, there isn’t another year that even comes close to matching the up-and-down swings of the past 12 months,” said Gabe Maier, vice president of Grassroots Outdoor Alliance.
The Grassroots Outdoor Alliance sector report is compiled monthly from the point-of-sales data of 94 member retailers, representing 195 doors nationwide. The data and accompanying analysis are unique to the outdoor industry and are shared with Grassroots member retailers’ monthly summary reports.
Building on this framework, Grassroots is preparing to significantly increase the depth and detail of their data with the launch of Switchback, a proprietary retail data tool inspired by and incorporating best practices from the independent bookstore industry. Switchback is in the secondary testing phase and is expected to be online with individualized retailer snapshots, brand dashboards and style performance reports by fall 2021.
According to Maier, the majority of retailers with significant sales increases for 2020 were boosted by hardgoods demand and/or their proximity to an outdoor destination. The majority of stores with the largest declines were primarily soft goods focused and/or located in areas of the country that had more restrictive lockdowns due to the pandemic.
“Throughout all of the volatility, there are several other factors to consider when sizing up the health of independent specialty over the past year. While sales are still king and can make up for a lot, many of our stores were quick to adjust their expenses through reduced hours and tightly controlled inventory, Maier said.
“We’ve heard countless times from many stores with sales declines that while overall revenue was down, profitability was up. Our general sense is that 60 to 70 percent of businesses in Grassroots are heading into 2021 in a better cash and inventory position compared to years past,” Maier added.