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5 Macro Shifts That Will Affect the Future of Outdoor Apparel

The outdoor consumer of 2014 may not be as hardcore or traditional as many industry leaders assume; and the economic, demographic, and political shifts of the next few years will present outdoor brands and retailers with a number of new challenges and opportunities, according to a survey by consultancy Egg Strategy in partnership with the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Egg Strategy’s preview of its outdoor consumer segmentation study at OIA’s annual Rendezvous, which took place October 7 – 9 in Asheville, North Carolina, revealed initial findings on the behaviors driving outdoor constituencies. The presentation, “Outdoor Consumers: The Ones You Know and Those You Don’t,” led by Egg founder and partner Christopher Wilshire, executive director Nancy Alderson and strategist Kate Dieter, also identified five macro shifts that will affect the outdoor consumer of 2020.

Unlike consumer studies based on demographics, Egg’s research characterized consumers based on motivations, hindrances and attitudes toward outdoor recreation and activities. With some 60 percent of those surveyed meeting the criteria of having participated in one outdoor activity and purchased one outdoor item within the past year, data was gathered from over 2,500 respondents ages 18 to 25, of both sexes.

Surprisingly, only 20 percent of those respondents considered themselves “extremely outdoorsy,” and for 37 percent, the top motivator for being outdoors was “the positive benefits of sunshine and fresh air.”

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The average annual per person spend on outdoor-related merchandise was $458, but with a wide variation among segments. The largest number of respondents (20 percent) characterized themselves as low-intensity and had an annual average outdoor-related spend of $284; the highly-engaged, performance-driven segment (10 percent) averaged a yearly spend of $788 per person.

With a yearly outdoor spend averaging $760 per individual, the category defined as “more active than outdoorsy” is expected to see growth over the next few years. Comprising 19 percent of the respondents, this consumer is likely to be young, male, urban and is driven by competition rather than a love of nature. This consumer trains indoors for outdoor pursuits, is drawn to athletic brands and regularly uses wearable technology.

The rise of the Millennial age group, predicted to total 28 percent of the population by 2020, along with their migration to urban centers, are the top two macro shifts which will result in the growth of this active, competitive, technology-driven segment, according to the study.

The other macro shifts Egg Strategy described included the obesity epidemic, with 42 percent of the population on track to be categorized as obese by 2020; a concurrent need to focus on health; and the rising number of Hispanic consumers, expected to account for 19.4% of the population by 2020.

“It will be a very different market,” Alderson said. Rather than predicting an overall growth rate for the outdoor business, she emphasized that brands and retailers needed to look more at the opportunities offered within each segment. “Be strategically selective; find the right segment for your brand,” the team suggested.

With 40 percent of consumers who did not meet the survey criteria considered “unengaged” with the outdoors, the presenters emphasized the need to “open the door wider” in order to communicate the enjoyment of nature, fresh air and the outdoors to a new and largely untapped demographic.

The partnership between OIA and Egg Strategy is part of OIA’s ongoing efforts to assist its members in understanding the outdoor consumer and find new opportunities for growth. The team will roll out further results of the survey in 2015, beginning with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in January.

OIA announced the appointment of Eagle Creek co-founder Steve Barker as its interim executive director Wednesday, to replace recently resigned Frank Hugelmeyer until it find a permanent leader. OIA will continue to benefit its 4,000-strong membership through its efforts in government affairs, sustainability, and youth participation, along with its sponsorship of Rendezvous and the semi-annual Outdoor Retailer show.