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   April 16, 2024  Facebook Twitter

The Outdoor Industry Surviving COVID-19

By Kathlyn Swantko

OR Winter Online
For the past year COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of daily life, including our ability to be outside. Even though vaccines are now available, it is expected things may not return to normalcy until the end of 2021. The need to shelter in-place, avoid crowds, and social distance has changed, not only how we work and recreate, but also how and where we shop. This has had an effect on the Outdoor Industry, including the purchasing of outdoor apparel and equipment. The decrease in family incomes, due to lost jobs or reduced working hours, along with the closure of malls and retail brick-and-mortar stores, has changed the amount of money spent across the board, and has accelerated online buying.

The closure of schools, cancellation of sporting events and the need to avoid or limit use of gyms, parks and beaches initially resulted in a significant reduction of outdoor activities, which heightened the stress level caused by the virus. However, people have been finding ways to stay active, which is important for maintaining physical and mental health, minimize stress, and lessen feelings of anxiety and depression. Some of the sports that have been particularly strong during the pandemic are cycling and golf.

NPD Logo

NPD Group’s educational presentations, conducted at the show provides information on specific outdoor winter market trends in outdoor sports activities for the year ending November 30, 2020.

Julia Day, executive director of business development for sports, stated, “2020 was the year for outdoor equipment with sales up +11% YOY, while apparel was down -11% YOY, and footwear decreased -19% YOY!” The top selling apparel sub-category was sweats, which shows the increased interest in more comfortable winter weather apparel. Women’s sweatshirts grew +11.5% and men’s sweatshirts grew +9.9%; men’s sweatpants grew +21.6% and women’s sweatpants grew +38.1%.

Dirk Sorenson, executive director & sports industry analyst for NPD, noted the top selling specialty outdoor sports equipment category was cycling grew by +41%. And, according to Matt Powell, Sr. industry analyst for NPD, explained that golf, the largest sports equipment category, grew by nearly +40% during the 12-months ending 11/2020.

Julia Day also shared the “Top Industry Trends” for 2020-21 outdoor sports, and the “Predictions for 2021”:

Cycling joy

Top Industry Trends

  • Strong bike specialty business continues (+48% in 2020)
  • Golf interest continues
  • Outdoor Specialty brick-and-Mortar (-27%)
  • Buying online and pick-up in-store to continue into 2021
  • Although US core outdoor sales across apparel, footwear, equipment, and accessories sales were down in 2020, registered a total of $20.2B YOY (-5% in dollars and -10% in units sold).
  • Self-Contained Camping Equipment / Backpacking Tents

Predictions for 2021

  • Slow consumer return to the malls
  • E-commerce will reset at a new higher level
  • Consumer commitment to healthy lifestyle
  • Stimulus checks will not help much
  • Sales trends will be “lumpy”
  • Footwear sales up in the low single digits
  • Activewear sales up in the low single digits
  • Cycling and golf look bright
  • Overall the outdoor business will be fair

Dirk Sorenson highlighted the sports to watch in 2021 within the recreational equipment market. Sorenson noted, “Demographic shifts reflect the increase in family-friendly activities.”

Future Opportunities or Pods of Growth for
Outdoor Sports in 2021

  • Recreational Kayaking – Expected to increase, due to pool closures
  • Water Sports • Paddle Sports / Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUP’s)
  • Inflatable SUP’s (new category)
  • Canoeing
  • Car Racks – increase due to the growth in road travel
  • Backpacks – Larger, Multi-day Packs growing as people look at new things to do outside and use for commuting, as well as for school students
OR Winter Online is open to share educational information until March 19, 2021.






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