Resilient outdoor market continues to perform well

Early research findings indicate growth of 1%-3% in 2014

A new EOG pilot study indicates that the European outdoor market grew slightly in 2014. Research undertaken by the European Outdoor Group (EOG) shows that the outdoor sector continued to perform overall well last year, despite challenging trading conditions.

Using background data from State of Trade, public information, the first sales barometer survey conducted with some key major retailers* and the association’s annual survey of its members, the EOG has built an initial overall picture of the outdoor market in 2014.  At retail, 2014 saw growth of 1% to 3%. However, it is important to mention that more businesses have reported a flat or declining year than in the recent past and that the study did not include small/independent retailers, so it does not claim full accuracy.

Furthermore, in particular in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), which has been known for back to back growth in recent years, there appears to have been a shift towards competition for market share, instead of organic market growth.  

Mark Held, EOG general secretary, comments: “As was predicted at the start of the year, 2014 was challenging for outdoor businesses.  In that context, these figures are encouraging and demonstrate the relative strength of our sector.  We do recognise that the sales barometer doesn’t provide a full picture of the retail situation and that the experience of smaller businesses may have been different and competition is tough at the brand and retail side.”

Those companies who have reported very positive figures link those to an optimum offer of innovative products, combined with investments in effective sales and POS strategies, both in store and online.

Growth in December 2014 lagged behind the overall average growth for the year due to warm conditions early in the month, but there was still some uplift versus 2013.  The mild autumn restricted apparel sales, where growth was also slower in comparison to footwear and hardwear.  In overall terms, footwear continued to perform best of the product categories, following strong growth in 2013.

Wholesale indicators collected as part of the EOG members’ survey complemented the picture, as 31% of the replying brands reported strong growth for the whole of 2014, 46% slight growth, 15% a flat year and 8% a decline.  The outlook for 2015 is generally positive, although the overall rate of growth is expected to be less than in 2014.  19% of participants expect strong growth, 62% expect slight growth, 15% expect a flat year and 4% expect a decline.

There is strong consensus (from 75% of EOG members who completed the survey) about the top three issues facing the industry.  These are the rapid changes in routes to market; issues with traditional sales patterns and the sector’s dependence on snow and cold conditions before Christmas; and the need for more hard market data.

Over recent years, the European Outdoor Group has increased its investment in market research, which has allowed the association to improve the range and scale of services that it offers members and the wider industry. 

Marketing communications manager Mathias Basedow adds: “We are at a crucial point with our market research services.  The implementation of a digital system and the addition of a dedicated and experienced market research manager are paying off.  The association’s capacity to deliver timely and robust market data was also boosted last year by the addition of retail members – and we have only just started tapping into the potential for further cooperation in this field.  The majority of key brands are already part of our projects and the number of retailers is growing.  With all the service fees covered by the association for another year, it’s basically a no-brainer from a certain business size on to team-up with us to support your strategic planning.”

The latest State of Trade report (covering 2013) was the most robust and comprehensive to date, with data from 120 brands and 22 European markets.  In addition to State of Trade, the EOG launched the new pilot study to track retail sales developments.  The first sales barometer pilot was held with a small group and focused on the full year for 2014 and on December 2014 in comparison to 2013.  Further editions are planned on a regular basis and will be open to both retailers and brands with own retail.

Going forward, the EOG plans for the sales barometer to report on a range of key areas, including figures by major category, split of online and offline sales, like for like sales by year and quarter, and regional developments and variations.  Achieving this will be dependent on reaching certain levels of participation and the association will welcome new contributors.

Full State of Trade data collection has just opened and the next barometer study is due to run in April, covering the first quarter of 2015.  To get involved, contact marketresearch@europeanoutdoorgroup.com or call Pauline Shepherd on +44 (0) 7798 668999.