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2011 Annual SNEWS Specialty Outdoor Retail Survey: Top-selling outerwear, sportswear and footwear brands

This week, in part three of our series of reports from the annual SNEWS® Outdoor Retail Survey, we're focusing on best-selling outerwear, sportswear and footwear brands for outdoor specialty retailers. Some eye-opening results, but as always, you must be an All-Access subscriber to read.

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Welcome to Part 3 of the 2011 SNEWS® Outdoor Retailer Survey. Each part of the entire survey, complete with expanded and detailed analysis of each category’s results, is being presented in sections to our All Access SNEWS subscribers, with this week focusing on best-selling outdoor outerwear, sportswear and footwear brands. If you missed last week, click here to read Part 2 of our annual survey: “Top selling brands for camping, backpacking.” And click here to read Part 1: “The best and worst.”

Although SNEWS sends the survey to hundreds of outdoor specialty retailers all over the country, this survey is by no means scientific in its approach. We do believe the results are quite representative of the outdoor specialty retail market as a whole, and those surveyed are consistent from year-to-year, so comparing answers from past surveys presents a useful picture of trends, market conditions and retailer moods — one of the most useful features of this survey. It is important to remember as you read the results for top-selling brands below that retailers are not predisposed to selecting a brand. They are each presented with a question and a blank. It is also important to note that just because a brand is not listed in this survey does not mean that brand is not selling well. It just means that it was not a top seller in the stores which responded — either by perception or reality.

OK, enough blather. On with the results:

What are the top-selling men’s technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 29.5%

Patagonia – 24%

Kokatat – 10%

Mountain Hardwear – 7%

Marmot – 4.5%*

Arc’Teryx – 4.5%*

Burton – 2.5%

What are the top-selling women’s technical outerwear brands this year?

The North Face – 32%

Patagonia – 25%

Kokatat – 7%

Mountain Hardwear – 5.5%

Columbia – 3%

Marmot – 2.5%*

Isis – 2.5%*

Arc’Teryx – 4.5%

After a brief dip in percentage share last year, The North Face continued as the top brand in both women’s and men’s outerwear, increasing its percentage share in both men’s and women’s. Patagonia should be considered the big winner here though as it lept from single digit percentage share in years past to a solid number two position in the best-selling category in 2011. Mountain Hardwear and Kokatat slipped a few percentage points, but nothing significant. And, as continued evidence of the retail community still trying to figure out what is going on at Cloudveil, that brand didn’t register a single vote this year.

What are the top-selling men’s sportswear brands this year

Patagonia – 26%

The North Face – 19%

Icebreaker – 4.5%

Quicksilver – 4.5%

Prana – 3%

Columbia – 2.5%

Marmot – 2.5%

Horny Toad – 2.5%

Kavu – 2.5%

What are the top-selling women’s sportswear brands this year?

Patagonia – 24%

The North Face – 12.5%

Lole – 11%

Prana – 5.5%

Horny Toad – 4%

Columbia – 3.5%

Marmot – 2.5%*

Icebreaker – 2.5%*

Roxy – 2.5%*

Holy sportswear Batman! So many brands, so little shelf space, so many retailers keeping inventories lean. And that all led a plethora of different brands being named as a top seller by our retail survey respondents – more than ever before. Patagonia and The North Face swapped spots in both men’s and women’s and Lole is proving its efforts to lock on specialty outdoor retail support are winning converts with strong customer service and an even stronger product line that appeals to a diverse female consumer. Roxy, newcomer to the list last year, a surf / skate fashion brand, stays planted in the top list for 2011. Woolrich, after looking strong in our last survey with a strong push on revamping its women’Pretty much everything else remained the same in terms of the expected top brands and their positions in retailer minds. As we said last year and the year before that, if there is one thing for certain in sportswear, if your fit, colors and styles are not spot on, then your sales will fall spot off.

What are the top-selling men’s footwear brands this year?

Keen – 13.5%

Vibram Five Fingers – 12.5%

Merrell – 11%

Chaco – 5.5%*

Vasque – 5.5%

Salomon – 4.5%*

Reef – 4.5%*

Scarpa – 4%

Patagonia – 3.5%

Olukai – 3%*

The North Face – 3%*

What are the top-selling women’s footwear brands this year?

Merrell – 16%

Ugg – 11%

Keen – 10.5%

Chaco – 8%

Vibram Five Fingers – 7%

Teva – 5.5%

Vasque – 4.5%

Scarpa – 2.5%*

Salomon – 2.5%*

Olukai – 2.5%*

If there was any doubt about the impact of Vibram Five Fingers on sales, doubt no more. Vibram vaults up in both women’s and men’s, sitting in an amazing second place on the men’s side in our top ten, pushing Merrell into number three. Keen slips a bit, actually dropping out of the top spot on the women’s side and giving ground to Ugg. Olukai, which makes its debut into the top ten footwear list both the men’s and women’s side is proof-positive that surf and ocean-inspired brands sell very well at outdoor special retail.

–Michael Hodgson

*Tied companies are listed randomly and all are considered statistically equal in terms of ranking. All answers have been rounded up to the nearest 0.5 percent, and since we don’t name every single company name or category with a percent, the percentages may not total 100 percent.

In our final look at the SNEWS Outdoor Retail Survey results for 2011, we’ll report on what retailers told us were the biggest waste of their time when trying to do business in the outdoor industry. Look for that report the last week in April.

The FIne Print:

The SNEWS Outdoor Retailer Survey may not be reproduced for redistribution of any kind, in whole or part, including for promotional or sales purposes of any kind, to consumers or the trade, without the written consent of SNEWS. Contact SNEWS at for reprint details and restrictions.