Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The outdoor industry is overwhelmingly white, but white consumers aren’t the biggest spenders. According to OIA’s ConsumerVue research, for example, Latino outdoorists spend about 27 percent more annually than the average outdoor consumer, and Asian and Pacific Islanders spend 20 percent more.
By 2044, non-Hispanic whites (the current majority) will comprise only half of the nation’s population, and the US Census Bureau expects the trend to continue until non-Hispanic whites become the minority.
Regardless of the impending population shift (and the social value of spreading the benefit of outdoor recreation), reaching out to multicultural audiences is a smart move.
“Hispanics make up 17 percent of U.S. outdoor consumers and are spending more money and more time outside than the average consumer,” said OIA Market Insights Manager Lorna Caputo. She describes Latino consumers as “tech-savvy,” and more willing to spend on high-quality products and technology that make outdoor recreation more comfortable.
Latino and Asian and Pacific Islander outdoor recreationists spent about 22 hours per week outdoors, well above the average 19 hours. This includes all outdoor activities, including cookouts, tailgating, and walking the dog.
Rue Mapp, Founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, has long advocated expanding the traditional definition of outdoor engagement to include these activities, which require outdoor apparel and camping gear without falling into the realm of technical adventure, which is less accessible.
Despite clear evidence for core outdoorist potential among multicultural groups, a full 68 percent of outdoor recreationists in 2013 were white, according to OIA’s 2014 Topline Report.
According to Caputo, both Latinos and African Americans said accessibility of outdoor activities – particularly transportation costs – and a lack of kid-friendly activities were the biggest barriers to getting outside.
“To ensure the growth of the industry, outdoor brands may want to focus on closer-to-home initiatives and/or educating families on family fun activities outside – making outdoors more accessible for young kids,” said Caputo.
José Gonzáles, founder of Latino Outdoors, said there is also a more intangible obstacle.
“The largest barrier is feeling welcome in some of these spaces,” he said. Traditionally, the outdoor industry dismisses diverse groups as uninterested in outdoor activities, and multicultural groups are used to seeing outdoor recreation as “just something that white people do,” Gonzáles said.
To help overcome stereotypes, retailers should approach multicultural communities as if they are the mainstream rather than treating them like niche markets in need of specific products or advertising campaigns, Gonzáles said.
REI, Columbia, KEEN, Klean Kanteen, and others have partnered with groups like Outdoor Afro and Latino Outdoors.
“REI is really putting in the effort in looking at what Latino Outdoors brings to the table that helps them with their marketing strategy as well as coming at it from a community-building and relationship-building aspect,” Gonzáles said.
In another initiative, REI made sure its 2016 campaign to highlight three US trails had a multicultural aspect and featured a diverse collection of profiles.
Laura Swapp, REI’s director of public affairs and next gen marketing, says that the approach is working, and REI has seen an increase in multiculturalism among the co-op’s member base. “The growth is slower than we would like, but it’s consistent,” she said. REI’s current focus is on multicultural individuals already committed to an outdoor lifestyle. Their priority is catering to these members and drawing them further into the co-op.
“If we have created such an insular outdoor industry that multicultural audiences do not find us compelling or relevant, our market is no longer viable,” Swapp said. “And if it is no longer viable, chances are that the ecosystem of conservationists, stewards, thought leaders and participants will be in trouble.”