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This is part nine of a multi-part series. The next installments will be published in the coming weeks. You can read the entire series here.
If you’ve been following this series from the beginning, you might be able to tell that we’re coming to the end of our report, as our data has already covered most of the major retail categories sold at outdoor shops across the country: men’s and women’s apparel, footwear, camping gear, climbing gear, and more.
We have just a few big categories left. This week, we’re looking at one of the most talked about during the pandemic, paddlesports. Our survey collected data for eight types of gear across the category: whitewater kayaks, canoes, touring kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, personal flotation devices, paddles, paddlesports apparel, and paddlesports accessories.
How we collected our data
As with the rest of the sections in our survey, we didn’t supply a list of responses for retailers to choose from. The results you see below all came from write-ins.
The numbers here reflect the percentages of respondents who actually answered each question. Some respondents declined to answer one or more of our questions about paddlesports sales. These omissions were not included in the calculation of vote percentages. We also included a question about whether or not respondents’ shops sold paddlesports gear at all. If they didn’t, we omitted them from the calculation of vote percentages.
Finally, survey responses were gathered with the promise of anonymity to ensure the collection of the most accurate possible data from retailers.
As reported by data-collection groups like NPD and others, paddlesports gear sold exceptionally well last year as consumers flocked to new outdoor activities, driven by the stresses and restrictions of the pandemic.
As we reported throughout 2020, many paddlesports-focused retailers saw sales increase dramatically in the spring and summer, even as Covid dampened retail sales across the nation more generally. Of course, shops everywhere faced inventory challenges through much of last year (and continue to do so), but that didn’t change the fact that paddlesports sales at both independent retail and big-box stores rose 56 percent in year-over-year growth in June 2020, according to NPD.
Taking a look at where those dollars went, we saw some interesting trends emerge across the paddlesports category at specialty retail in 2020.
Whitewater kayaks and canoes had clear winners in each category—Dagger and Wenonah, respectively—which each captured about 40 percent of the vote total. Touring kayaks, on the other hand, saw a greater spread. No single brand captured more than 20 percent of the vote total; instead, Wilderness Systems, Eddyline, and Hurricane all turned in moderately successful performances, dividing about half of the vote total between them.
Stand-up paddleboards did have a clear winner—SIC—which pulled in twice the votes of the second-place finishers, BOTE and Hala Gear, tied for 15 percent of the total.
Paddles was something of an isolated category, with three dominant brands that didn’t show up anywhere else in the results for one simple reason: The three brands that nabbed significant portions of the vote share are each one-product companies, specializing in paddles and nothing else.
The last three categories—personal flotation devices, apparel, and accessories—were absolutely dominated by a single brand: NRS. The company pulled in roughly 40 percent of the vote total in each of the three categories, handily beating all challengers. In the apparel category, NRS was close to securing half the vote, with the second-place finisher lagging significantly behind at 9.5 percent.
Despite the dominance of NRS in certain product areas, paddlesports as a category saw a larger spread of brands than most of the retail segments we’ve examined thus far in our survey results. The market for paddlesports equipment, according to these results, appears to be populated by numerous big players, with only a few products cornered by a clear market leader.
The complete data for each category is listed below.
Dagger: 40 percent
Pyranha: 30 percent
Jackson: 20 percent
Advanced Elements: 10 percent
Wenonah: 41.7 percent
Old Town: 25 percent
Esquif: 16.7 percent
Mad River: 8.3 percent
Swift: 8.3 percent
Wilderness Systems: 19 percent
Eddyline: 14.3 percent
Hurricane: 14.3 percent
Hobie: 9.5 percent
Jackson: 9.5 percent
Native: 9.5 percent
Other brands mentioned: Advanced Elements, Current Designs, Delta, P&H, Perception
SIC: 30 percent
BOTE: 15 percent
Hala Gear: 15 percent
Boardworks: 10 percent
NRS: 10 percent
Surftech: 10 percent
Other brands mentioned: Badfish, Hobie
Personal flotation devices
NRS: 39.3 percent
Astral: 32.1 percent
MTI: 17.9 percent
Other brands mentioned: Kokatat, Stohlquist
Werner: 33.3 percent
Aqua Bound: 23.3 percent
Bending Branches: 20 percent
Other brands mentioned: Accent, Cannon, Carlisle, Chinook, Harmony, NRS, Surftech
NRS: 47.6 percent
Free Fly: 9.5 percent
Kokatat: 9.5 percent
Other brands mentioned: Anetik, Astral, Carve, Level Six, O’Neill, Quicksilver, Simms
NRS: 41.7 percent
Yak Attack: 16.7 percent
Hobie: 12.5 percent
Other brands mentioned: Astral, Ice Mule, Level Six, Sea to Summit, Seals, Seattle Sports