Brrrr! Nasty Weather Boosts Outdoor Gear Sales

While retailers are famous for blaming lousy weather for weak traffic and sales, the parkas-and-mittens crowd are finding lots to celebrate in one of the snowiest winters on record.

Columbia Sportswear just announced record fourth-quarter sales, and the NPD Group says that core U.S. outdoor retail channels reported that sales of outdoor products jumped 6.4% to $6.9 billion in 2013, also a record.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company says the biggest gains came in keep-me-warm apparel, footwear and accessories, which gained 9%, to account for $2.2 billion of the total $6.9 billion. “Insulated and non-insulated jackets, shells and fleece, base layers, handwear, headwear, and winter boots, experienced strong sales across much of the country in 2013,” the NPD report says, including a 9.5% bump in November and December alone. 



“Almost 40% of outerwear sales occur in the months of November and December so a late winter can spell disastrous for outdoor retailers,” it says in its report.

Brands like Columbia Sportswear are benefitting. The Portland, Ore.-based apparel company says its fourth-quarter sales climbed 6% to $533.1 million, compared with fourth quarter 2012 net sales of $501.1 million, and that net income rose to $36.7 million. It also raised its forecast for 2014, and says it now expects sales growth of between 15 and 17% in the coming fiscal year. (Much of that is expected to come from a new joint venture in China.) 

Thanks to what he describes as “strong sales momentum,” Tim Boyle, president/CEO, says in its release that “increased consumer demand that became evident across our U.S. direct-to-consumer platform during the third quarter, well before seasonal weather arrived, has sustained through the fourth quarter of 2013 and into the first quarter of 2014.”

Columbia is also getting plenty of exposure at the Winter Olympics underway in Sochi. The company designed the uniforms for the U.S., Canadian and Russian freestyle ski teams, which it has described as its largest investment yet in the Olympic games.

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