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Press Releases

2008 Outdoor Sales Gain 5% Despite December Decline

Outdoor sales for the entire year in all three core outdoor store channels (chain, internet, specialty) totaled $5.2B, a 5% gain over 2007, according to the recent edition of The OIA Outdoor Topline Report.

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Outdoor sales for the entire year in all three core outdoor store channels (chain, internet, specialty)* totaled $5.2B, a 5% gain over 2007, according to the most recent edition of The Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) Outdoor Topline Report, produced for OIA by the Leisure Trends Group. For the entire year, internet stores and chain stores grew a healthy 18% and 7% respectively, while specialty stores were down 2% in dollars.

December Decline

According to The OIA Outdoor Topline Report, December retail sales for all core outdoor stores (chain, internet, specialty)* fell 1% in dollars ($1,078,598,888) compared to December 2007 ($1,094,277,086). All declines came from specialty stores, which lost 10% in dollar sales for the month. Positively, chain and internet stores both saw dollar sales increase; chains grew 7% and internet retailers were up 13%.

Christmas was tough for retailers across the country, as retail sales fell by record amounts and retailers big and small shuttered doors coast to coast. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, total retail sales fell 2.7% in December, more than double the anticipated decline of 1.2%. Although the outdoor industry felt the effects of a tough Christmas season along with the rest of the country, results were better than most industries, a cause for cautious optimism heading into 2009.

Specialty Bright Spots

Although overall sales were down slightly for specialty in 2008, many categories emerged as clear winners in a tough year. Winter boots, fueled entirely by women’s styles, were up 11% in full-year dollar sales. Woman-specific sportswear categories such as dresses, skirts and sports bras were also good sellers. Other footwear and apparel categories with strong growth included softshell tops, casual shoes, trail running shoes and multisport shoes.

The hands-on hydration category, which consists mainly of water bottles, was on fire in 2008, refusing to slow down after huge growth in 2007. With environmental and health concerns continuing to shape the category and fuel product innovation, this growth is expected to continue in 2009.

A renewed interest in economical, close-to-home vacations helped fuel sales of camping-related items in specialty stores this year. Sales of items such as tents (+2%), sleeping bags (+3%), camp stoves(+4%) , climbing gear (+3%), water purification (+11%), mattresses (+2%) and miscellaneous camp accessories (tent accessories +28%, sleeping bag accessories +7%, pack accessories +4%) all benefitted, each outpacing 2007 dollar sales.

Online Skyrockets

Online sales totaled $973M in 2008, grew 18% and fueled a significant amount of buzz in the outdoor industry. Black Monday was on December 1 this year, and the dollar sales that would have been in November gave a boost to December sales, contributing to the 13% dollar growth for the channel as a whole. Combining November and December together to include the entire holiday season, 2008 came out 7% ahead of 2007 in dollar sales. In December, Internet sales were up in all four major categories. Equipment was up 18% in dollar sales, equipment accessories were up 10%, apparel was up 8%. Footwear was up 40% in dollars on the strength of winter boots. Winter boots grew 73% in dollars from last December.

Chain Sales Strong

All Chain dollar sales were up 7% both in December and for the entire year while average retail prices saw nearly across-the-board declines for both periods. In December, retail prices for the entire channel declined 4% and nearly every category saw prices drop. Smaller and lower price-point items such as equipment accessories and apparel accessories saw especially strong growth, but every major category increased dollar sales in December as consumers took advantage of good deals and sales. Holiday sales and cold weather may well have been the catalysts for the growth in dollar sales in December. Combining November and December to include the entire holiday season, all chain dollar sales dropped 1% compared to the same period in 2007.

To access the OIA outdoor retail sales Topline data and to review trends by industry channel and category, OIA members can log in at or call 303.444.3353 for assistance.

For additional brand growth and brand and model market share reports, please contact Leisure Trends Group at 303.786.7900 x107

*OIA Topline Report Outdoor and Paddle channels include: outdoor and paddle specialty, national outdoor chains, regional sporting goods chains and outdoor (and paddle) internet specialty merchants.

About Outdoor Industry Association

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) is a national trade association whose mission is to ensure the growth and success of the outdoor industry. OIA provides trade services for over 4000 manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, sales representatives and retailers in the outdoor industry. OIA programs include representation in government/legislative affairs, market and social research, business-to-business services and youth outreach initiatives. Educational events include the annual Rendezvous™, Outdoor University®, and the Capitol Summit. Outdoor Industry Association is based in Boulder, Colorado, and is the title sponsor of the Outdoor Retailer tradeshows. For more information go to or call 303.444.3353.