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If you head into any large shopping mall, retail outlet or shop-lined high street, you will likely find one or more retailers dedicated to camping and outdoors; filling the store windows with mannequins wearing the latest outdoor and walking gear, standing beside tents which seem almost too small for a normal human to fit inside, despite actually feeling fairly roomy once you’re inside them.
Once you’ve spotted the store and taken the window display in, consider the time of year and how that has impacted on the display that is being presented in front of you.
The camping and outdoor industry is one of the retail sectors most heavily influenced by season and the time of year, with demand rising and falling dramatically in line with weather conditions and other factors such as sporting trends, variable weather influences like snow or sun, and the state of the travel industry. As such, the camping and outdoor industry is one which relies on trends, mapping seasonal stock ahead of time and launching new products in line with the trends and events across other industries: for example the Summer festivals which create a spike in demand for affordable tents and camping equipment.
The growth of the camping and outdoor sector
We have already ascertained how the growth and popularity of the camping and outdoors sector has a lot to do with season, conditions and trends – matching and supplying the demand for different outdoor activities and sports, and different camping accessories and solutions in line with trends across the travel, sports and fitness, and other industries.
Much of the growth in the camping sector of the industry comes as a result of the rise in experiential camping and the growth of glamping as a concept – creating within the sector a supply and demand for luxury camping and “staycations”. Camping is in fact one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the entire USA, encompassing camping in tents as well as motor homes and RV’s with consumers taking full weeks to step away from their hometowns and communities and travel to new areas. Likewise, in the UK, national parks and green spaces are packed full of campsites and caravan clubs, with top spots like the New Forest and the Lake District offering consumers and guests different levels of experience based on the kind of camping they would like to partake in: be it wild camping with no intervention, or full facility campsites.
Meanwhile, the outdoor industry encompasses and refers to any activity which takes place outside – with many specific sectors being formed from the different seasons and thus the different types of activity which can take place in certain conditions. In the colder climates and winter months, the outdoor industry and outdoor retailers are driven forward by snow sports like skiing and snowboarding, and the demand for large overcoats, wetsuits and outer layers which support time spent outdoors. In the summer, these items are replaced by surf boards and swimsuits, while Autumn and Spring are often dominated with post-Summer and post-Winter sales as retailers look to shift stock in preparation for the coming season.
That’s all very well, but what is responsible for the growth of these sectors, particularly the outdoor industry which has always been well served by reliable brand names like North Face and Mountain Warehouse? Perhaps the largest influencer of demand in the outdoor sector in particular is the increase in travel, and the simple fact that consumers are now able to go further and visit lands they previously could not – thus sparking a demand for clothes and products that they didn’t need before.
Top products in the camping and outdoor industry
Spanning across so many different areas of focus, the top products associated with the camping and outdoor industry are widespread across a series of different sectors; including apparel and clothing, fashion and functional accessories, travel accessories, various devices and gadgets, sporting equipment and fitness accessories, and functional furniture pieces like tents and camping chairs.
Despite the wide range of areas covered by the industry, for those consumers seeking out high quality and top level products and items, the range of specialist retailers is in fact quite slim: listing a few specific high street stores, and then a wider range of ecommerce brands and marketplace sites which stock outdoor and camping gear among their other wares.
Examples of industry specialist retailers include:
- North Face
- Mountain Warehouse
- Go Outdoors
- Bass Pro Shops
- Sierra Trading Post
- Back Country
All of these are renowned brands in the outdoor retail world and are the first port of call for those looking for hardwearing outer layers and camping equipment.
Of course, there are other retailers and sectors which deal with the more niche areas of the outdoor industry, including fishing, sailing and watersports; with top brands across these areas including:
- Henry Lloyd
And then we have the marketplace sites and retailers which list camping and outdoor gear as just a small part of their wider offering, with names including:
- John Lewis
Moving on to the products themselves, this is where the list gets longer – showcasing just how many different product lines are associated with camping and outdoor activities. One of the main things we tend to find in the camping sector specifically is that independent creators are always looking for new ways of bringing style to camping and providing consumers which fun and whimsical gadgets which input a little extra luxury into the idea of camping. Some great examples of this include novelty torches and tent mats, head torches built into beanie hats, hand and toe warmers, tent accessories and signage to sit outside the tent, fairy lights for the inside of the tent, and wine glass shaped flasks ideal for ensuring you don’t spill your evening drink.
Other top products which span across the industry include:
- Camping chairs
- Camping tables
- Camp stoves
- Head torches and hand torches
- Tent pegs and hammers
- Campfire friendly meals
- Camping mats
- Sleeping bags
- Coats and outer layer jackets
- Walking boots
- Hiking trousers
- Sporting equipment and tools, e.g. surfboards, bikes, fishing rods
The list goes on, and spans across all the above retailers and many more!
Trends in the camping and outdoor industry
One of the major trends in the camping industry is the rise in luxury camping and the growing demand for accessories and products which elevate the experience to something which represents glamping. One way that this is being met is with the creation of venues and holiday destinations which offer camping solutions which are a little closer to the home in terms of their luxury aspects – for example B&B’s which provide accommodation in bell tents and shepherd’s huts to give guests closer and more immersive access with nature and their surroundings, without taking away the element of comfort and style. The rise in popularity of these kinds of getaways and breaks has been hugely supported by social media and the simple fact that when people share a photo of a great sunset seen from their bell tent, the demand for similar stays will continue to grow and create that ‘FOMO’ marketing that works so well across a range of industries.
Another trend in the camping and outdoor industry is the rise of inclusion and diversity within the sector, which is seeing both equipment and apparel being made for plus size consumers and consumers who do not the typical demographic of someone looking for activewear. The lack of high quality outdoor gear in the plus size sector has been an issue for a long time, however with more and more industries taking notice of inclusion and the need for diversity, retailers are now stocking and marketing items and products in all different shapes and sizes – and it is doing wonders for demand in the sector!
A similar trend to this and one which deals with another major global issue is the rise in camping and outdoor gear which is made to be sustainable and environmentally conscious. One of the disturbing trends around festivals in particular, and something which has been highlighted in the recent years, is the fact that the festival market is responsible for thousands of pounds worth of rubbish being discarded on natural sites across the nation and beyond year on year. With tents and camping equipment becoming available across both high end and discount online retail stores, especially subject to seasonal discounts and deals, the simple fact is that consumers are being allowed to become careless and are thus leaving their tents on site for ease – amounting to hordes of rubbish being left on site every year. In response to this, retailers and manufacturers are looking for new ways of changing customer attitudes and adjusting the way that products are made to make them more sustainable: for example, Patagonia, a leading outdoor retailer, has launched a ‘Worn Wear’ initiative whereby consumers can return barely used goods and they can be sold on for cheaper prices to second hand consumers. Another concept which is gaining traction is the use of more sustainable materials across the production of tents and other pieces of equipment, moving away from plastic and instead embracing canvas and other more natural materials.
Likewise, eco-friendly accessories for both camping and outdoor activities are becoming increasingly popular, with things like solar panelled chargers and lights providing consumers with functional items which serve to elevate their experience while also remaining friendly for the environment. Another example of an eco-friendly camping and outdoor accessory which is making waves in this industry and beyond is the decomposable camping grill, allowing users to use their grill safe in the knowledge that no part of it is harmful to the natural world.
The point of these trends specifically is to understand the link between camping, outdoor activities, and the sanctity of the natural world and the natural environment – creating in consumers a responsibility to take care of the surroundings that they enjoy during their activity.
And then we have the trend that we touched upon earlier in reference to the rise in demand for various outer layers and outdoor apparel products – the rise in travel and the way in which consumers are able to experience a wide variety of different environments and different extremes. This directly responds to a variety of areas within the camping and outdoor industry, however one of its main areas of focus is on marketing and the ways in which various product lines are being presented to the end consumer. For example, a tent set up facing the sunset on a cliff in Australia is a lot more appealing than a tent in a rainy campsite in Wales; likewise, the idea of surfing off the coast of California is much more appealing than the wipe out waves and chilly seas of Scotland. Visual marketing and enticing advertising is all about transporting the consumer to a destination or mindset through what you show them – and in the case of camping and outdoors, this is best achieved through the medium of travel and the promise of sunny skies and memorable experiences.
For those brands which choose to use influencer marketing, the best and most prominent trends and campaigns are those which give a platform to the faces which are known for a specific sport or activity. For example, why put a celebrity from the movies into a tent or at the top of a mountain, when you could choose a renowned explorer like Bear Grylls or David Attenborough, or even use real life footage of a family enjoying a camping holiday. Of course, there is a place for Hollywood celebrities in this kind of advertising, primarily leaning on them for comedy and to highlight how products are suitable for all experiences and all demographics. However, for the most part, the most effective marketing is that which uses real life examples of explorers and campers in order to advertise and sell real life experiences.