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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 21 – 25. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.
Morning dawned on Solitude Mountain and the 2014 All Mountain Demo Day, Jan 21, with frigid 19-degree temperatures. Vendors clutched their thermoses of coffee and zipped up their coats to mid-nose. A group of Australians, just in from their 100-plus-degree homeland, uttered expletives about the biting chill.
After a two-year hiatus, winter is back with a vengeance this season, and while it stung the skin of many Tuesday, most outdoor retailers and manufacturers couldn’t have been happier about it.
“It’s just so nice to see smiles,” said Dave Nacke from Nation’s Best Sports in Haltom City, Texas. “People are excited to get out and use the gear they’ve been buying.”
A consistent bout of cold temperatures and snowfall from the Rockies to the Northeast throughout the crucial holiday shopping season came with perfect timing — driving consumers to buy items that had lingered in inventory the past two winters.
“Cold weather has been on our side with early snow,” said Paul Helfert, ski buyer for Sun and Ski Sports in Houston. “There’s definitely some pent-up demand.”
The latest monthly sales report from OIA VantagePoint, which partners with SportsOneSource on data, showed sales up 10.2 percent to $2.36 billion for the five-week fiscal month ending January 4, 2014, versus the same period a year ago. Outdoor apparel sales were the star performer with a 14.7 percent uptick to $1.26 billion, followed by outdoor hardgoods, which jumped 12.4 percent to $724.4 million.
“People are feeling more confident to let go of some money,” said Linda Breedlove, retail buyer for Eco Centric, a women’s clothing store in Blairsden-Graeagle, Calif. Like many others, Breedlove has noticed how the recent upswing in the economy has encouraged an open-wallet policy.
Vendors, too, reported an uptick in business once winter arrived. “December really took off heavy for us, and January as well,” said Mike Filander of Boulder, Colo.’s Zeal Optics. “Everyone seems to be happy from the office.”
Keith Voss, independent rep for Wolverine Rugged Outdoor, has noticed that retailers are more willing to pull the trigger on their orders now that their shelves are barer. “We are booking more for next fall [with stores] knowing they’ve gotten rid of their inventory.”
In addition to an economic upturn and early snowfall, Matt Dazley, buyer with REI, gives credit for the resurgence of a love for playing outside to “media tie-ins,” namely shows like “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race.” “I think we’ve done a better job of promoting the outdoor lifestyle. Rather than going to a city, [consumers are] snowshoeing to a yurt.”
And surely building excitement for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games doesn’t hurt. “We’re in an Olympic year, so people are more excited about winter sports,” said Bruce Streukens of the Lifthouse gear shop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
It’s not all good news across the nation. The West Coast, particularly northern California and southern Oregon, is suffering through a drought. And in Utah and Nevada, the season hasn’t been as strong as it has in Colorado.
“[We’ve had] a couple of good storms, but it’s not frequent at all,” said Tyler Shurtleff from Camp Saver in Logan, Utah, an area, like California, the snow gods haven’t blessed. Fellow Utahan Anaya Gruber with the Elephant’s Perch agreed, adding that not only has there been no snow, but off-piste conditions are growing more treacherous. “It’s pretty terrible. And if it dumps, the backcountry is going to be pretty unsafe,” she said.
Still, dry state residents maintained a positive outlook. “Bicycle sales are way up,” said Rich and Joan Fuellenbach of Ken’s Bike Ski Board shop in Davis, Calif. “We have sold a pair of skis.” Climbing, too, has been unseasonably popular. “People are getting out of the gym with the weather being good,” Jon Turner of Lone Pine, Calif.’s Elevation Climbing said.
As usual, the demo wasn’t all work and no play. The Helly Hansonites were asking people to strip down. As a promo to hype its H2Flow technology, the brand offered a trade-off where attendees handed over their old long johns to be donated to Splore, a non-profit dedicated to introducing the outdoors to underprivileged and handicapped individuals. In exchange, attendees received one of HH’s merino wool/LIFA blend baselayers. “Take it off!” was a common refrain.