OR Summer Market attendees in Salt Lake City said retailers were overly cautious | ParkRecord.com

OR Summer Market attendees in Salt Lake City said retailers were overly cautious

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

It’s camping season and people are getting outside. Basic family camping and car camping equipment are some of the best-selling products for outdoor retailers this summer.

Ralf Garrison with the Mountain Travel Research Program that studies travel trends in Utah, Colorado, California and British Columbia, reported this week that family vacations, reunions, special occasions and what he called "one-gas-tank" vacations are the strongest segments of the industry.

People at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City this week who sell basic camping equipment said they’re definitely benefiting from this trend.

Unfortunately, sales aren’t as good as they could have been because retailers were overly cautious in their initial orders for this year.

"The crystal ball said to be cautious," said Mark Hrubant, Eureka brand director for Johnson Outdoors. "If people had been more aggressive we would have had an up year."

"If people hadn’t pulled back, we would have done more," agreed Bill Davila with World Famous Sports. "It was damned if you do, damned if you don’t."

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Hrubant thinks businesses being careful not to overstock was prudent and astute, but just turned out to be wrong. His clients have been reordering all summer.

"Supply is the challenge," he said.

Brian Brune with Alps Mountaineering said reorders from dealers have been really strong for the past six to eight weeks. Everything they offer including tents, backpacks, air pads, sleeping bags and camp furniture have been reordered all summer.

That’s because people are simplifying their leisure time, Hrubant said.

"High-end luxury items were in, now frugal is in. Ostentatious is out, efficient is cool," he explained.

Jerry Wigutow of Wiggy’s Inc. specializes in sleeping bags and other basic equipment including tents. A $560 tent imported from Australia has only sold a few dozen units since he started offering it. But overall his business is up 30 percent from last year, he said.

Davila said he specializes in basic, value-priced items and aspects of his business are almost double what they were last year.

But there’s no guaranteed strategy for everyone. Joey Tuma with Snow Peak said tent sales haven’t been anything special. Ironically, reinventing basic items has worked best for them this year. For example, he said few people are interested in buying new water bottles or camping lights. But Snow Peak has a vacuum-sealed, stainless-steel water bottle that will actually hold, and keep cool, a beer bottle. Their new camp light looks and acts like a candle. These are their top-selling products this year.

Scott Park, sales manager with Trango, said rock-climbing equipment has been their best seller this summer.

The Outdoor Industry Association reported this week that hiking boots and energy snacks have been top sellers this month.

The OR Market ended Friday.

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