Leisure marketing: Could online purchases be pushing outdoor products in a new direction?

The recession may be pushing outdoor specialty store customers online.

If you’re marketing outdoor leisure products and services, it may be time to adjust your specialty retail strategy.

A 13% increase in overall outdoor sales is hiding a larger truth.

Leisure Trends’ Outdoor RetailTrak just released its latest report for the outdoor segment (outdoor chains, specialty and online sales).

Sales are up 13% over last year. But the real news is that torrid online sales are hiding a continued slowdown in specialty retail.

It was another flat month of sales at specialty retail stores.

  • Online sales accounted for 22% of last month’s total sales, up from 17% last year and 14% in 2007.
  • That’s almost a 50% gain in dollars old compared to last year.
  • By comparison outdoor specialty stores were flat for the same period.

Why has growth slowed for outdoor specialty stores?

  • It seems to be a category-by category problem.
  • Recreation tents, packs, camp accessories and footwear have sold well.
  • But other categories like apparel are suffering.

Could this signal a longer-term shift in buying patterns?

  • Various studies indicate that the prolonged recession may be affecting buying patterns.
  • Consumers are looking for better deals.
  • And shifting to channels that give them more choice and more control.
  • In the short-term, this trend favors online channels and will continue to hurt specialty retailers.

What can you do to stay competitive in this environment?

If you’re a leisure marketer selling your products through all three outdoor channels:

  • Do more online promotions to drive consumers to your online outlets.
  • If you brand is too small to put your own online promotion together, participate in your retailer’s co-op programs.

If you’re a specialty retailer, optimize your website for search engines and shoppers.

  • If you don’t know what I’m talking about read this post.
  • In advertising and promotions, encourage your buyer to check you out online.

Take advantage of this year’s hot trends: footwear

  • Hiking boots, winter boots, trail running shoes, multisport shoes and sandals are all outperforming 2009.
  • Specialty retailers who participate in the LeisureTRAK reporting all expect sales of those items to stay high through the back to school season.

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