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The Overlooked Consumer Representing One-Third of Outdoor Sales

As the outdoor market evolves into an industry built to serve consumers with a myriad of backgrounds, one consumer group stands out as both unknown and potentially lucrative: the Urban Adventurer.

The Urban Adventurer is one of the newest types of outdoor consumers, defined by the Doneger Group for their willingness to participate in the outdoor industry without a particularly strong connection to physical outdoor spaces. Members of this consumer group are more at home at a rock wall in the city proper than on any actual rocks far from their apartments and homes.

In short, they are a type of consumer that the outdoor industry, which often focuses on the “ideal” outdoor enthusiast, may not be reaching out to effectively.

However, according to the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), that could be a big mistake. Although the consumer group only makes up around 20 percent of all outdoor consumers—they make up 33 percent of the sector’s spending.

“The outdoor space is still highly focused on its pinnacle product. [Outdoor brands] are usually focused on the extreme version of whatever sport their brand is known for. That’s alienating for the consumer,” Jocelyn Thornton, senior VP of creative strategy at The Doneger Group, told Sourcing Journal. “How many of us are actually hiking Everest? But there are quite a few of us going on a day hike at Inwood Hill Park in Manhattan. There are places to do that in the city but you’re probably not going to capture that person because you’ve marketed to the mountaineer and not to the everyday urban adventurer.”

The OIA calls this demographic the “Urban Athlete.” A typical member has a median age of 32, is more than likely to have children at home and more than one-third are likely to live in a large city center—though all have a strong connection to urban spaces.

“The Urban Athlete is not motivated by a connection with nature, rather they go outside for competition, social connection with others and thrill-seeking,” the OIA explained.

Additionally, the OIA describes the urban outdoor consumer as more likely to participate in group outdoor activities without a high barrier for entry and that don’t take up large portions of their time, activities like team sports, golf, outdoor yoga and skateboarding.

When looking to outfit themselves for these activities, Urban Adventurers will look to the brands they already know: brands like Adidas and Nike.

“The Urban Athlete looks for stylish, technical gear and is willing to pay more for gear that is vital to performance,” the OIA explained. “They also value products and brands that are environmentally friendly. The Urban Athlete is most likely to use Nike for outdoor activities, with Adidas ranking a distant second and most other brands lagging behind. In addition to these, members of the Urban Athlete segment use a mix of outdoor and athletic brands and tend to identify more strongly with the latter.”

Thornton said the key for outdoor brands looking to capture the demographic lies in understanding what they want to get out of their outdoor experiences. For one, consumers of this type are more likely to want to stay close to home for their outdoor activity.

As a result, there has been a rise in products like meal kits that give consumers access to a cuisine that they may have previously only ever experienced when traveling. Interactive mirrors give homebody athletes the ability to participate in highly strenuous group workouts from the comfort of their living room.

In order for a modern outdoor brand to successfully reach out to a consumer of this type, Thornton added, it needs to understand that the new focus is on wellness and awareness—the objective is no longer to give every consumer the most advanced product possible, that simply does not reflect the Urban Adventurer’s everyday goals.

“The industry as it is today really focuses its attention on more extreme sports, high impact activity, mountain sports, things like that. But, the reality is that a small percentage of the business is being used in that setting—especially for apparel and footwear,” Thornton explained. “Where I feel like the industry has an opportunity for growth is taking whatever it is they know from developing technical features and hybridizing them into a more multi-functional and outdoor lifestyle product. You don’t need [products] to be the pinnacle of performance because the reality is that consumer is going to be wearing that same pair of hiking boots from the brewpub to the low-impact hiking trail and everywhere in-between.”

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