Footwear Isn’t Driving the U.S. Outdoor Industry — Here’s What Is

Outdoor footwear is pricey, but it’s not what’s driving the $18.8 billion U.S. marketplace.

According to data provided by The NPD Group Inc., bags and outerwear are giving life to the industry this year.

“The bag business is being driven by travel and consumers’ affinity for experiential spending, which remains a hot opportunity for the outdoor market,” NPD VP and senior sports industry adviser Matt Powell said in a statement.

Accessories, which NPD identified as the industry’s smallest category, grew because of bag sales, with the biggest growth coming from fanny/waist packs, which are up a whopping 52 percent in the last 12 months.

“An unexpected comeback, the fanny pack is regaining popularity as consumers embrace its convenient, compact and lightweight qualities,” Powell said in a statement. “Outdoor brands are breathing new life into the product through water-resistant fabrics, security features and adding ‘hip pack’ to its list of names to go by.”

Also, NPD stated backpacks were up 4 percent, and there was a 6-percent climb in duffle bags in the same period of time.

And the $3 billion outerwear market, which NPD said accounts for roughly 30 percent of apparel sales, grew 2 percent in the last 12 months. Tops are driving sales (up 3 percent), with specific boosts coming from noninsulated shell (up 5 percent) and fleece/wool (up 2 percent) looks.

“Outerwear had a very good run early in the year as the long, late winter drove sales. Because of that, inventories are clean right now, which has benefitted early sales, as well,” Powell said. “Outerwear’s success is largely dictated by the weather. If the old Farmer’s Almanac holds true this winter season, the predicted warm and dry weather across much of the U.S. will likely hold back sales.”

The release of NPD’s data comes days before Outdoor Retailer’s first show in November since it moved from Utah to Denver in January. The final OR show of the year will take place Nov. 8-11.

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