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NPD: Warmer Weather, Consumer Preference Alter Outdoor Category

There’s been no shortage of articles discussing an unseasonably warm 2015 or retailers blaming lackluster sales near-solely on the weather, but according to NPD, the category is changing—weather irrespective.

Last year was the second warmest on record in the U.S. after 2012, and annual outerwear sales were flat. A warm 2012 and subsequent record-cold 2013-14 sent annual outerwear sales in 2013 up 9 percent, but a warm fourth quarter hurt sales in 2015.

Outerwear sales typically peak in November and December, but last year sales in the fourth quarter were down 6 percent. Camping however, saved the outdoor category as the warmer weather and increased interest in activity sent consumers to the stores for gear.

“Despite the atypical weather, there is still a shift taking place when it comes to consumer preference for outerwear, which is altering the category landscape,” NPD vice president and sports industry analyst Matt Powell said. Driven by the Millennials, consumers are choosing light weight puffy jackets and multiple layers that incorporate new technologies as opposed to traditional, heavy winter coats. Consumers are doing more with less; rather than purchasing specific products for every season or activity, they are buying adaptable and multipurpose items.”

And the trend toward novel and unconventional is coming through in camping, too.

“Following the new Millennial pattern, the camping industry is doing a solid job at promoting the unconventional; driven and embraced by consumers, the industry has responded to the less-traditional, modernized, and urbanized side of camping. Brands and retailers in this space are waking up to the fact that they need to market products differently,” according to Powell.

Camping categories drove outdoor growth in 2015, with hammocks, backpacking tents, tarps and other accessories, seeing double-digit growth, some as high as 36 percent.

“Consumers are propelling new trends within the outdoor industry, and the seasonal lines which brands and retailers have drawn are becoming more of a stereotype as consumers evolve their definition of ‘the outdoors.’ While camping may be a two-week backpacking trip, it may also be a regular activity in a backyard or apartment rooftop. This urban spin is opening more doors for the industry,” Powell said. “As equipment products continue to cross style, function, and fashion, the industry will continue to gain appeal from more walks of consumers, and keep its current following coming back in both fresh and familiar ways.”