Outdoor Firms Ponder Future

SALT LAKE CITY — After years of explosive growth, where does the outdoor industry go from here?

That question was top of mind at the summer ’13 edition of the Outdoor Retailer trade show, held here last week.

Over the past several years, the outdoor industry has become accustomed to double-digit increases, but a slowing just represents the industry being “normalized to a regular rate of growth,” said Ed van Wezel, CEO of Amsterdam-based Hi-Tec Sports. And that, he explained, can be an advantage for his brand, which focuses on more traditional and less fashion-forward pieces.

Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource, said that weather patterns have changed consumers’ preferences for outdoor shoes.

“First there was no winter, then there was no spring, so people aren’t buying overbuilt shoes like they used to,” Powell told Footwear News. “Without the [extreme] weather, you don’t need that built-up product.”

To that end, outdoor brands were touting three-season styles that can work in a variety of climates, as well as stylish product that can be worn in the city and offers multiple end uses.

Patrik Frisk, president of Stratham, N.H.-based Timberland, said the brand’s main focus is to create outdoor product for the consumer “who isn’t going to climb Mount Everest,” but might like to hike on the weekends, work in the yard and who just loves being outdoors.

“It’s about versatility,” he added.

Danish outdoor and comfort brand Ecco is putting more emphasis on its leather multisport merchandise, according to Thomas Maymann, product manager for performance. That’s because Ecco is seeing increased demand for functional outdoor shoes that can transition to casual wear.

“We see this everyday multisport market growing a lot,” he said.