Fresh Air

The outdoors sector was one of the beneficiaries of the pandemic—at least in terms of financial performance—as consumers returned to favorite pastimes and tried new ones, and as the great outdoors was particularly appealing as a safe and isolated, but still enjoyable, space. It would not be a surprise to see outdoors specialists’ financial results recede a bit as the population slowly returns to some of its old ways. But that does not seem to be the case based on the latest quarterly announcements released in April:

  • Helen of Troy saw year-on-year growth of 29.8% in its home and outdoor division in the quarter ending February 28. Brands in this segment include Hydro Flask and Osprey, which was recently acquired, as well as Oxo on the home side. The company attributed the strength in home and outdoor products to strong consumer demand, sturdy retailer purchases to improve inventory levels and create a buffer against future price increases, and higher sales in club and closeout channels, among others. Helen of Troy also operates in the health and wellness segment (where it is a licensee of Honeywell, Vicks, and Braun) and in beauty.
  • Thule, a Swedish company that makes bike, roof, and winter and water sport racks, rooftop tents, bike trailers, backpacks, sport travel bags, and related items, reported sales growth of 19.5% in the latest quarter. The Americas increased 27% in the quarter after currency adjustment, on top of an “exceptionally strong” first quarter of 2021, with Canada showing particularly robust results.
  • Shimano, which makes bicycle components, fishing tackle, and rowing equipment under brands including Dura-Ace, Ultegra, Shimano Steps, Stella, Aero 3, and others, reported sales growth of 13.9% in the last quarter, with nearly equal increases of 13.9% and 14.1%, respectively, in bicycle components and fishing tackle.
  • Newell Brands, whose portfolio in the outdoor and recreation space includes Coleman, Marmot, Bubba, Contigo, and more, saw core sales growth in this segment specifically increase 22.9% over the same quarter in 2021. That compares to net sales growth of 4.4% and core sales growth of 6.9% company-wide; Newell also operates in the home fragrance, baby, writing, home appliances, and food-prep segments.
  • Fenix Outdoor, based in Switzerland, saw revenues 30% higher than the previous year’s quarter, with the brands segment up 25%. The latter includes the wholesale and retail operations of Fjällräven, Tierra, Primus, Hanwag, and Royal Robbins, among several others, which together operate across the outdoor apparel, bag, camping equipment, footwear, and expedition equipment segments.
  • Olin-owned Winchester saw its revenues increase by 9.6% in its latest quarter, although it attributed the growth largely to higher commercial ammunition pricing. It was also impacted negatively by elevated commodity and other materials costs. Olin’s other business units are involved in alkali products, vinyls, and epoxy.
  • Columbia Sportswear reported a 22% increase in net sales compared to the same quarter in 2021. The company markets outdoor, active, and everyday lifestyle apparel, as well as footwear, accessories, and equipment, under the Columbia, Sorel, PrAna, and Mountain Hardwear brand names. Sorrel was particularly sturdy, with sales growth of 27% year-on-year, but all brands, channels, and geographies recorded improvements, the company said.

Most of the marketers mentioned that their solid performance came in spite of continuing supply chain issues, significant cost increases, the rise of the omicron variant, and uncertainty and lost sales surrounding the war in Ukraine. Sluggish demand in China was also an issue for some. In addition, there were signs of potential declining demand on a global basis in the future, such as a slowing of the cycling boom, to name one example. This would not be unexpected after the pandemic-fueled gains of the past couple of years.

It should be noted that not all of these companies or brands are equally active in the licensing business. But taken together they serve as an indicator of the performance of the outdoors segment at large. Their results are a good sign for any licensor or licensee already in or thinking of entering the outdoors category—at least in the shorter term.

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