Outdoor Industry Trends for Brands to Look out For

Brandon Gracey
December 10, 2015

According to the 2015 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report, nearly half of the American population (48.4%) participated in at least one outdoor activity last year, translating to 141 million participants and nearly 12 billion outdoor outings. According to Adventure Travel News, “the outdoor industry has a proven record of stable innovation and growth...manufacturers and retailers share a commitment to core business values, such as helping people to discover the wonder of outdoor recreation, conserving natural areas and championing sustainable business practices.” Indeed, the outdoor industry is an unusually communal group. With Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, one of the industry’s largest gatherings, coming up in just a few short weeks, let’s take a look at where industry leaders are collectively going and some of the biggest trends that are taking them there.

5 Key Outdoor Industry Trends

1. Growing Market Segments

While in years past, the Outdoor Industry faced a much more niche consumer, brands are now expanding their reach to a wider audience––one that includes more amateurs and casual hobbyists. Brands known for high-tech gear are expanding their offerings with products that are more versatile and useful in a range of activities. Outdoor brands are much more lifestyle-oriented in general today than they were in previous years, with a focus on accessibility rather than more niche, technical messaging. Which brings us to our second trend...

2. Blending of Function and Aesthetics

In accordance with the fact that outdoor brands are now facing a much wider audience of consumers, we’re seeing much more of a blend between function and aesthetic when it comes to product design. Similar to the rise of last year’s “athleisure” trend, for instance, technical apparel is trail-friendly while still being comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Manufacturers are seeking to create performance materials that are not only breathable, moisture-wicking, and waterproof, as well as creating apparel that looks great and is eco-sensitive.

3. Made in the USA

If the cover of the March 2015 issue of Backpacker is any indication, American made goods are experiencing an uptick. At last year’s Outdoor Retailer, attendees could grab a “Made in the USA Roadmap” and get it stamped by various exhibiting brands that manufacture products domestically. Of course, it’s still relatively rare to find companies that manufacture their products exclusively in the USA, but this trend is expected to continue to gain momentum.

4. Investments in Mobile Technology

Outdoor brands are making more investments in mobile technology to provide a better experience to their customers. In a recent survey of wholesale distributors across several industries, it was found that 44% of respondents in the outdoor industry had already replaced paper order forms with mobile order writing software––5 points higher than the survey-wide average of 39%. Brands are also finally beginning to adapt to rapid changes in mobile technology and optimizing their websites for mobile.

5. Connecting with Millennials

According to Adventure Travel News, the outdoor industry is seeing declining participation among millennials when it comes to outdoor activities. Those who are interested in the outdoors find it challenging to find others to participate alongside them. The industry must work hard to connect with the millennial generation, and some are already succeeding. For instance, Lake Tahoe Mountain Sports and the National Parks service are using social media and other online platforms to their advantage. Lake Tahoe Mountain Sports hosts Meetups and demo days in partnership with brands. The National Parks service takes advantage of Instagram and the hashtag, #FindYourPark to challenge millennials to share their experiences and discover parks near them. This kind of engagement is becoming key to success in capturing a wider, more urban audience. What trends do you think will be represented at this year’s Outdoor Retailer? Let us know in the comments.