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Trade Shows & Events

Mind, body, business

As yoga’s footprint at the Outdoor Retailer grows, retailers learn how to capture a new customer.

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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. 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.

Yoga connects its practitioners’ minds and bodies. It also can connect retailers to new revenue streams.


According to Yoga Journal, there are 16 million yoga practitioners in the U.S. And the magazine’s publisher, Bill Harper, said those consumers’ interests reach far beyond yoga.

“They are a great source of revenue for outdoor companies who want to market to active women,” Harper said. “The yoga consumer is extremely active, whether she’s doing yoga or running or climbing. She does it all.”

For that reason, he added, they’re 3.5 times more likely to shop at outdoor specialty retail.

Each Outdoor Retailer show welcomes more yoga companies as exhibitors, and sees more pure outdoor manufacturers adding yoga wear to their product lines. While Leisure Trends has reported that stores like Lululemon and Athleta are taking sportswear business from outdoor retail stores, outdoor specialty might be able to reel some of those dollars back in.

How yoga came to Outdoor Retailer
Fifteen years ago, there was no yoga-specific show for retailers, Outdoor Retailer Show Director Kenji Haroutunian said. Prana, which has roots in climbing, became more yoga-centric, and yoga retailers and studios came to Outdoor Retailer to see the company.

“That sparked a movement of yoga businesses to start attending,” Haroutunian said. “As the movement grew, it brought in [other and bigger brands like] Gaiam and Manduka.”

Before long, yoga earned a space of its own. The Yoga Zone was born at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013.

“It’s been one of the greater unexpected successes,” Haroutunian said.

Spreading its wings 
The number of adults practicing yoga in 2001 was only 4.3 million. That means the participation rate has grown 272 percent in the last decade-plus, according to Yoga Journal’s figuring.

Those yoga practitioners include a lot of outdoor retailer customers since “outdoor-oriented people tend to cross into yoga,” Sherpani CEO Ed Ruzic said.

Beth Shaw, the founder and president of educational yoga company YogaFit, said yoga is now a $16 billion industry that’s bound to grow further.

As a result, outdoor retailers need to “answer to a growing need,” said Bernard Mariette, president and CEO of Coalision, Lolë’s parent company. “[Yoga] is beyond a trend; it has become a lifestyle.”

Peas in a pod
The yoga and outdoor lifestyles encompass many of the same values — evidenced by the number of people combining yoga with outdoor sports like hiking and stand up paddleboarding.

“Yoga makes sense in the outdoors,” Haroutunian said. “It makes sense when you’re getting in touch with your natural biorhythms and your body outside, in a natural setting.”

Plus, it gets practioners into better shape for their other activities. “Consumers who want to pursue an active, healthy lifestyle recognize that yoga can be a key component [to] improving strength and flexibility, which makes8 other outdoor activities more enjoyable,” said Avery Stonich, spokeswoman for OIA.

Jill Wheeler, a professional climber turned SUP instructor, said introducing people to yoga in outdoor settings is less stressful and makes students want to come back.

Since her company, Wellfit, started offering SUP yoga in Naples, Fla., and Boulder, Colo., two years ago, she went from teaching three to five people in a class to regularly turning away people from her 11-spot class. When her clients need gear, she points them to local surf shops, REI and Lululemon stores.

The ‘she-conomy’
One thing is certain: While numbers show that women still don’t make as much money as men, they do control a majority of spending.

The Survey of the American Consumer of Fall 2011 from MRI showed that 75 percent of women identified themselves as the primary shoppers for their households, and 73 percent of women controlled household spending. Women control approximately $12 trillion of the overall $18.4 trillion in global consumer spending.

“It’s time for the outdoor industry to recognize the buying power of women,” Yoga Journal’s Harper said, noting that the majority of yoga practitioners is female. “The yoga market, made up of very active women, is a very outstanding way for them to communicate their sales and brand messages.”

The development of women’s-specific product is a major movement that is still in its early days, Haroutunian said.

“It’s barely being addressed by some of the other parts of the greater outdoor industry inclusive of fishing, hunting and bicycling,” Haroutunian said. “There’s a lot of headroom for the outdoor industry to move in that direction.”

Dream girls
The ideal consumer is an outdoorsy gal who makes good money, practices yoga and participates in a variety of outdoor sports.

Harper said his readership reflects the broader yoga audience, and it’s the ideal consumer for outdoor manufacturers and retailers. The audience is 87 percent female and 13 percent male, with a median household income of more than $82,000. Plus, Harper said, the readers are involved in other outdoor sports.

“We are reaching women who are involved in sports from cross-country snow skiing to backpacking or hiking,” Harper said.

Industry veterans like The North Face and Patagonia have offered successful yoga lines for a few seasons. Other outdoor companies are following in their footsteps.

Merino wool company Icebreaker launches its yoga-inspired apparel at this show, offering everything from tops to tights. Icebreaker Creative Director and Vice President of Product Rob Achten said a natural fiber like merino is perfect for yogis.

“Yoga is all about reconnecting with the natural world, so it makes no sense to wear a product that’s 100 percent synthetic for your yoga practice,” Achten said.

Sherpani also is offering its first yoga products this market, in its Wellness Collection. CEO Ruzic said it was a natural addition to the company’s outdoor-related women’s lifestyle bags.

“We all are outdoor-oriented people here in Boulder [Colo.], and yoga is definitely one of the sports that we do,” Ruzic said, referring to the company’s hometown.

And it goes both ways. Yoga companies are starting to develop products with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, said Susan Haney, senior vice president of marketing for Gaiam.

What’s in store
Leisure Trends Senior Retail Analyst Scott Jaeger said yoga-centric brands have been growing and doing well the past few seasons in the specialty outdoor, chain and Internet channels.

He noted that while sportswear sales in outdoor channels have remained relatively flat year after year, they have increased in yoga-centric stores.

“We firmly believe that the outdoor industry, in the last year or so, has actually lost sales to stores like Lululemon, Lucy and Athleta,” Jaeger said.

Losing that little bit of sportswear business isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Haroutunian said. Those stores have helped create awareness about the outdoor industry.

“They’ve brought as much business to specialty outdoor as they have taken,” he said.

Generally, sportswear is a good category for retail — buyers just might need to reconsider their direction for the future.

“Women’s sportswear is still up 8 percent across all three channels, but I firmly believe it could be healthier if product offering was more on trend with the yoga wave that is so strong right now,” Jaeger said, adding that men’s sportswear sales were up 12 percent.

Yoga apparel, as with lifestyle apparel, is becoming the next evolution of outdoor apparel.

“At one point, it was crossing from technical gear to lifestyle gear; male-dominated gear to female-oriented gear,” Sherpani’s Ruzic said. “This opportunity to add yoga is huge.”