Gorpcore (“outdoorable”) Marshmallows and Mercedes Sprinter Vans – Trends from Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2017
August 7, 2017
Change is in the Air for Sure. Whether defined as leaving Salt Lake City for Denver, the closing of outdoor specialty stores, fast fashion, the explosion of the cooler category, consolidation, big brands falling behind smaller more nimble e-commerce-savvy brands, the evolving definition of the outdoor experience or the New York Times paying attention to this industry in a big way – this industry is changing.
Sure, there was melancholy around the departure from Salt Lake, but there was very positive energy towards what the future holds for the industry in Denver. Reality struck home: exhibitors, attendees and the community at large knows it has reached a tipping point and there seems to be a genuine desire (dare we say need) to adapt, or else…..
The Industry is Strong and the Mainstream Media is Taking Notice: Now responsible for contributing $887 billion to the U.S. economy, the outdoor industry is resilient, catching the eyes of mainstream media (e.g. New York Times fashion editor Vanessa Friedman devoted an almost full-page story to the apparel segment expressing its passion), and the continued attention of private equity companies circling the show. Who doesn’t want to be part of an industry that showcases best in class technology and outstanding products – all of which is designed to excel in the outdoors with the bonus of producing health and endorphin benefits. We are lucky, indeed.
The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same. This show seemed to be more about refinements rather than breakout technology – e.g. the new bucket from Yeti in a sizzling hot cooler category or the new Hydro Flask Wine bottle and wine coolers in a new, exciting water bottle category. This applies as well to footwear, apparel and gear. Brands seemed to be uber focused on details that make a difference, as well as expanding their markets, even if there were no major technologies involved.
Fashion Is King: There was the usual cross-over of fashion to “outdoorable” and back with designers doing their best to create apparel that urban dwellers can wear from the subway to their local dive bar and then on the trail that weekend. We continue to see evidence of outdoor’s appeal to the world of high end fashion designers – just take a look at rugged styles on the runways in London, Milan and Paris. We doubt we will see Louis Vuitton or Gucci at Outdoor Retailer any time soon, but you can be sure they are watching closely.
Performance Performance: These trends continue with every category striving to be lighter, active and more versatile. Car camping, yoga, stand up paddleboarding, bike camping/packing and fly fishing are top of mind and attracting attention because they are easier to understand, more accessible and are part of the every day lifestyle for millions of end-users.
Fast Fashion Creep: While Zara continues to be a star in fast fashion, e.g. introducing 28 collections a year and taking as little as eight weeks from design to instore, this approach is not right for every manufacturer. Nonetheless, the new younger consumer coming up through the ranks wants fresh styles quicker than ever – and this includes their choices in outdoor apparel. There is a concerted effort for brands to look at their supply chains to see how their “go to market” process can be expedited.
GorpCore Not Normcore: To borrow from SNEWS, the leading outdoor industry trade publication, “Gorpcore fuses the fundamentals of practical campwear with the principles of high fashion to create an urban inside joke with a dash of earnestness.” Gorpcore shows the world that consumers want to take time out to enjoy the outdoors and value their surroundings.
Again, from SNEWS, “Like normcore before it, Gorpcore’s main idea is that the unfashionable can be fashionable—if you wear it right. At its center, Gorpcore is a rejection of consumerism where minimalism supplants glamour. Fashion reporters in New York have noted Gorpcore beginning to infuse street style with some trend practitioners going as far as to wear fleece vests and fanny packs as they tromp around Manhattan and Brooklyn. For retailers and buyers alike, it’s more than just a fleeting burst of Patagucci pullovers and grandpa-ish wool sweaters, but a sign of the times.”
Sustainability is Standard Operating Procedure: Way back when companies where shouting from the hilltops about their “green” commitments and manufacturing. Today, the mantra is really about, “just do it.” Sustainable (and traceable) technologies are standard operating procedure. adidas Outdoor expanded its Parley for the Ocean offerings to apparel, as well as expanding its footwear line featuring products made from recycled ocean plastic. PrimaLoft wants 90% of its materials to incorporate at least 50% post- consumer recycle content by 2020. Mountain Khakis is focused on recycling pants and introducing a larger selection of organic for spring 2018.
Water Water Everywhere: The water bottle category was one of the most popular products of the show, coming in bold colors, a variety of sizes, flowery prints and even “design your own”. The real news is in the technology. LifeStraw introduced LifeStraw Play, the brand’s first filtration bottle designed for kids’, LifeStraw Universal, an adapter kit that fits most popular water bottle brands, and LifeStraw Flex, a versatile multi-use filter meeting National Sanitation Foundation (NSF-53) standards for lead reduction.
Women! Women’s marketing initiatives tied closely to women’s products were front and center with no signs of going away any time soon, and why should they. The same goes for women’s only product–no more “pink it and shrink it.” Gear and apparel designed specifically for women is here to stay.
Staying Connected, Glamping and Van life: As consumers turn to the outdoors more frequently and seek its simple pleasures, they’re looking towards solar technology, USB charging capability, hot outdoor showers on the fly, marshmallow recipes and portable fireplaces. Kelty is introducing sleeping bags that grow with kids. And it wouldn’t be OR without a display from a Mercedes Benz Sprinter, right? Ah, the van life spirit is calling.
Manufacturers that are Online, Nimble and Savvy are Kicking the Butt of Many Larger Brands: No question that buying habits are changing (just count the number of retailers closing and the obituaries that are being written about malls). The fight for online dollars is brutal. Brands, retailers and media need to figure this out quickly.
The Next Generation of Intel Inside: Oftimes, the best attribute is what is inside, e.g. those technologies and component brands that really are the heart and soul of performance. Ingredient materials that enhance comfort and performance are critical to providing products that excel in all conditions that Mother Nature has in store for us.
Made in USA Resonates: Following the White House Made in USA Week, there are a host of brands that focus on designing and manufacturing their products in the USA.
Venture Out – Bubbling Brands We Obsess About: Venture Out, a show-within-a-show at OR, showcases brands at the forefront of the modern outdoor experience. Here, core outdoor retailers are finding brands appealing to new, younger and more urban-influenced consumers such as Feller and Reyn Spooner.
Last thoughts? The challenges and opportunities are daunting. The passion is unmatched. The timing is now. And in an era of “fake news”, the outdoor industry is anything but.
How this famous line from the movie NETWORK still resonates today for tips pitching clients when mainstream media is too busy.
This week, a horrific shooting captured our thoughts, TV sets were glued to the hearing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the First Lady and Barron moved into the White House. Last week, former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and Britain was turned upside down because of the election results. Every morning, reporters are checking their newsfeed for the latest tweets from POTUS.
What does this changing obsessed media cycle mean for pitching consumer brands such as footwear and apparel or component technologies such as insulation or DNA tracking technology? Frenzied and harried reporters, less space and quicker turnarounds for deadlines. Stories on fashion, travel, supply chain and technology drop low on the totem pole as far as priority (unless of course they can be tied to the comings and goings of Washington, D.C.).
To keep the narrative going about new products, adapting to the volatile world of news is key. Targeting smaller niche, credible news sites, and respected bloggers are solid alternatives. Generating visibility in these outlets could have a cumulative impact and should not be overlooked, while still going after those traditional gold targets, e.g. Mashable, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or morning shows. In addition, often times a respected blogger may become a writer or contributor for a larger outlet.
As the blogger space is saturated, due diligence is key. How can a brand identify the appropriate blog or site? How does the blog’s messaging align with the brand? Is it pay to play for a product review? What is the return on that investment?
Six tips for working with bloggers:
- Do your due diligence.
- Prioritize your target list in order to maximize efficiencies.
- Understand your client’s budget for executing sponsored posts (or not).
- Respond in a timely fashion.
- Nurture relationships that provide ROI. (It is a two-way street, check in to see if bloggers are working on a story with which you may be helpful, even if it doesn’t include your client).
- Creativity can go a long way (but keep it short, less is more).
Today’s PR pro needs to be versatile and his or her success (and their clients’) depends on the ability to switch gears quickly. As the media world is over connected, over scheduled and over worked with shrinking budgets, knowing where the best opportunities are is more challenging than ever. It is essential to gauge the best prospects. A series of small consecutive wins lays the foundation for larger stories and may bring surprising ROI.
Let the madness commence.
May 26, 2017
No “doldrums of summer” this year. A forecast of the changing media landscape in the coming season.
The CGPR team just wrapped a busy week in New York City, representing clients and helping to organize the second annual Get Outdoors-NYC, a consumer media event hosted by Outdoor Retailer. While the event was extremely successful in connecting consumer and national media with outdoor brands, there were definitely signs of a changing media landscape both in New York and beyond.
The national events that are affecting the traditional ebb and flow of media coverage, as well as the overall approach to securing coverage of the industry, products and trends, are in a season of change.
CGPR presents five media landscape trends leading us into summer and how to “stay cool” this season:
From cycle to cyclone: In a recent story in the New York Times on the journalist, Judy Woodruff at PBS, the reporter Katie Rogers, noted, “The modern news cycle is a little different now — less of a cycle and more like a cyclone, the informational equivalent of standing in front of a tennis ball machine.”
CGPR Recommendation: Communicators should keep pitches precise and targeted in these turbulent times
Trump, Trump and more Trump: As the Trump Administration continues to make news on an hourly basis, it has turned the media world upside down. This means there is far less space and time to generate media coverage on consumer brands – whether it be apparel/fashion/gear/accessories or trends. We have not only seen changes in broadcast, but also in print e.g. the WSJ has virtually eliminated its daily coverage of lifestyle and reserved this for its weekend Off Duty section.
CGPR Recommendation: Competition for coverage will be fiercer then ever and brands will have to be creative in positioning their news in enticing ways to editors.
Tightening of budgets: The media world continues to tighten its belt as the demand for print remains in decline. This means reduction in staff and frequent changeover – more than ever before.
CGPR Recommendation: Communicators should stay vigilant and aware of staff changes. It will be key to nurture existing relationships while working to build new diverse networks.
Deeper digging: With the speed and breadth of news available to consumers with the click of a mouse, media are working to deliver more in-depth understanding of brands and products. Media are looking for stories that reveal the “intel – inside” or the background of the product, producers, or supply chain. A new product is no longer automatically news.
CGPR Recommendation: Brands should be mindful of intriguing background stories or new angles that make their product or service relevant to timely events and larger audiences.
Media or Marketer? To stay competitive, media entities are turning to marketing and e-commerce to stay relevant. Branded content blurs with editorial coverage and the opportunity for creative marketing is expanding.
CGPR Recommendation: Consider branded content or leveraging paid bylines in influential publications.
While summer used to suggest a slowing of pace both for brands and media, the competitive fast paced environment of the new media landscape promises otherwise. Brands must stay active, consistently building relationship with media, and creative, offering media unique angles and authentic stories, to stay relevant in the coming seasons.
Last week CGPR was in Washington, D.C. meeting with government agencies, Senators and Congress on behalf of our client Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS), a leader in DNA marking technology and as part of the Outdoor Industry Association Capitol Summit. One thing that as abundantly clear – it’s still a numbers game.
We had two asks:
- To pay attention and to understand the benefits of DNA technology that protects the integrity of U.S. made products
- To protect our public lands
For us, it was familiar territory having started my career as a lobbyist working for Friends of the Earth, New York Mayor Edward Koch and in the Carter Administration. What was new was a complete sense of confusion on the Hill.
In fact, during our visit, we witnessed a terrorist drill in the city complete with helicopters and make-believe terrorists and a press corps trying to deal with quirky, hostile and unprecedented rules for covering the President. But what was not new were the young, hard working legislative assistants totally engaged in their work hoping that they can make a difference. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Department of State, Commerce and the Office of the U.S.A Trade Representative were all interested in the DNA technology, especially in light of today’s focus on Made in America. There is a clear need for the technology and opportunity for legislation that might give manufacturers a break on import duty if they utilize this kind of technology that verifies US origin. ADNAS’ technology marks cotton prior to it leaving the gin and then traces and verifies it throughout the global supply chain.
Consumers expressed their preference for truth in labeling in this recent poll conducted in January. This technology is a source of pride for US farmers that know their product will be protected. The end result? More protection for the consumer.
Summarizing our experience? All bets are off. It’s definitely a new world order – but one thing remains consistent and constant – the importance of numbers and the role they play in today’s news cycle:
- The first 100 days of the Trump Administration
- The large number of unfilled key appointments. In a CNBC story, as of April 24, 2017, the White House had yet to put forward the names of candidates for 475 of the 554 key positions that require Senate confirmation, according to the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that advises incoming administrations.
- The budget number needed for agreement to pass the continuing resolution
- The 20- year span of time included in an executive order to review all national monuments within the Antiquities Act of 1906.
The best numbers from last week were those issued by the Outdoor Industry Association in the 2017 Outdoor Recreation Economy – proving that outdoor recreation is a, “powerful economic engine” and in fact, “is among our nation’s largest economic sectors representing the lifeblood of thousands of American communities and providing livelihoods for millions of American workers.” In short:
- The outdoor industry contributes $887 billion in consumer spending annually to the U.S. economy
- The outdoor industry supports $7.6 million American jobs
- The outdoor industry contributes
$65.3 billion in federal tax revenu
- The outdoor industry contributes $2 billion in state and local tax revenu
Another good number? The outdoor industry is bigger in annual spending than education, gasoline and fuels, household utilities, motor vehicles and parts and pharmaceuticals.
Or there is this, each year, Americans spend:
- More on trail sports gear ($20 billion) than on home entertainment ($18 billion)
- More on water sports gear ($14 billion) than on movie tickets ($11 billion)
- More on cycling and skateboarding ($97 billion) than on video games ($61 billion)
- More Americans participate in outdoor recreation than attend NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL games combined
Now that is what we call truth in numbers.
April 12, 2017
Three apologies in two days? Really?
Put the heartfelt apology out there, issue a thoughtful statement, admit a company’s wrong doing, be consistent on social media, and in the best of all worlds, pick a morning show or news outlet and do an interview — full stop.
What ever happened to crisis management 101?
And oh by the way, don’t blame anyone else, especially the victim.
And oops, maybe think twice about sending out an employee mass email telling them they went “above and beyond.”
Have the statement available to loyal consumers, frequent flyers (in the United Clubs), where hmmm, frequent flyers congregate before their flights — aren’t they the ones that fly the most and spend the most money and might even be the best brand ambassadors?
(I flew United today and no one at the United Club in Boston had been given talking points or suggestions of how to deal with customers asking questions. I did have a pilot reference the incident noting that they were going to wait for connecting passengers on connecting flights and for the folks on the plane, he wanted to make sure we stayed on.)
A crisis plan should include:
- A heartfelt apology
- Specific action items and delivery dates for what a company specifically plans to do to address the wrong
- Message points for front line employees
- And that statement should be sent to frequent or loyal customers
There were so many errors that I stopped counting — not sure how to characterize the PR team’s actions honestly — it was the epitome of who’s on first.
In this case, the action that United took in concert with law enforcement was bad enough. What made it worse was the utter and complete epic fail of Mr. Munoz’ PR team. It is true that the buck stops at the top of the ladder — but this group of PR professionals completely missed the boat. They need to take as much ownership of this onerous action as Mr. Munoz.
This is going to be a long journey back for United to restore customer confidence. It must not only include taking a deep dive into fixing the problem, it must also include a thoughtful communication plan targeted to United’s key audiences.
Maybe Mr. Munoz will call us.
But it will be a long time before the consensus for United will be “wheels up,” more likely it will be “buckle up.”
March 8, 2017
CGPR had a busy trade show season this winter. From Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, to ISPO in Munich to SHOT in Vegas and beyond, we saw a lot exciting trends and industry developments. CGPR president and founder Chris Goddard summarizes these trends (and saves you the air miles) in our latest trend video below.
2016 saw trends like “athleisure” continue to be the media darling in footwear and apparel, social impact and sustainability affect purchasing decisions more than ever, a substantial incorporation of technology in product design and the pleasantly surprising re-introduction of brick and mortar retail, among others.
As the calendar turns to 2017, forward-thinking brands (big and small) look to align with emerging industry trends to identify evolving consumer interests – how best to reach consumers who are constantly altering how they consume information.
As we head into the trade show season, CGPR compiled a look at active lifestyle industry trends expected for the coming year. If you are a CEO or a brand manager, the challenge of how best to engage and stay connected with consumers will continue to keep you up late at night. If you are consumer, you created this monster; we hope you enjoy it. Happy reading.
Happy New Year.
“Ath-Loungewear” and Athleisure Everything
Companies will prioritize the lifestyle aspect of athleisure over performance. Lifestyle brands will become more active-oriented and the footwear and apparel industry will become increasingly casual, inviting people to wear “pajamas as weekend wear.” (From Vamp Footwear and Retail Dive )
Sustainability in outerwear continues
Brands and consumers will increase their focus on sustainability. Apparel companies will continue to incorporate sustainable, environmentally friendly materials in products, implementing eco-friendly business practices to satisfy modern consumers who place a greater priority on purchasing products that are sustainably sourced. (From Gear Junkie)
The 80’s are back, again
The 1980’s will make a comeback in fashion and the outdoors, representing a general resurgence of micro and retro trends. “Everything from power suits and slouchy tailored trousers for office wear, through to off-the-shoulder looks, active wear and [over-the-top] ruffles” are expected to return this year. (From Fashionista)
Footwear designs modernize, industry sees growth
Footwear brands like Adidas and Nike dove into 3D printing in 2016 and are expected to build upon that foundation, alongside the continuation of athleisure and seamless designs. According to The Wall Street Journal, despite footwear comprising of only six percent of the luxury market, shoe sales are expected to grow five percent annually over the next five years. Medium and large footwear brands will also increase their focus on the online shopping experience to align with consumer purchasing trends. (From Vamp Footwear)
Resurgence of brick and mortar, buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS)
The holidays saw healthy increases in purchasing. Consumers are researching and purchasing online and picking up in store. These methods of buying contribute to continued traffic and sales at brick and mortar retail. Consumers are showing more trust in fit when online shopping for footwear and apparel in 2017, but want to physically pick up their purchases – just to get out of the house? (From Forbes) Macy’s maybe shuttering stores but Fabletics is doubling its brick and mortar locations.
Where a product is born and its authenticity matter “Country of origin is going to be right there with the nameplate.” There is an uptick in consumer interest for where products are made, reflecting trends in social impact and sustainability. Brands will showcase convey product origin through marketing communications to connect with those consumers to tell more of a “DNA” story. (From Footwear News)
Shopping will become even more experiential
To combat the increase in online shopping, retailers are strategizing creative ways to engage consumers in-store. Brands will focus on aligning with the digital experience, such as personalized purchasing, enhanced digital customer service options and increasing visibility across social media channels to connect with consumers in multiple environments. “Apple has already banished the store in favor of its new town square retail concept, and fashion brands are paying close attention.” (From Billboard)
Subscription services market ripe for the taking
With an increase in personalized digital experiences, enhanced mobile devices and modern consumers becoming more leisurely when purchasing online, the number of tailored subscription services for style items has begun to rise. Growth is expected as the market is relatively untapped. Brands like Five Four Club and Stich Fix saw slow but consistent growth in 2016. (From Retail Dive)
November 16, 2016
Now that the election is settled, consumers can fully focus on shopping, and the upcoming holiday season. Election fatigue will take a while to fully fade, but holiday shoppers will be relieved to have the break from relentless commercials and robo calls – but is Black Friday the welcome distraction it once was? The Mecca for wheeling and dealing? Not any more, rather, it is an extended retail war zone that begins before Halloween and goes through the New Year. Robo calls are now replaced with relentless Christmas TV commercials, radio ads, online marketing, Santa Clauses in crowded malls and 24 hour Christmas music on Sirius.
Although still an annual ritual for some, Black Friday is quickly losing its position as the best time to secure the favored deal for that flat screen TV. It is becoming diluted because of the avalanche of choices for holiday discounting that has been flooding the airways and customers’ online inboxes since before we saw our first candy corn.
What is helping to fuel the battle? Retailers on the sales warpath feel they need to be open on Thanksgiving day.
Some store managers are uneasy about asking employees to work on the day designated for family time. Yet, the fear of losing vital holiday sales is keeping those same stores open. The battle lines have been drawn and have never been more competitive.
Retailers are clearly picking sides. REI made a bold move last year in choosing to #OptOutside, advising consumers to go outside instead of shopping on Black Friday. REI will close again this year with the same message, having achieved double digit gains in the past holiday season.
The Mall of America recently announced it’s joining the movement to close on Thanksgiving. Other stores known to be closing include Barnes & Noble, Game Stop, Home Depot, Nordstrom and TJ Maxx.
Conversely, Macy’s, who has suffered significant loses this year and is closing stores around the country, will open an hour earlier than last year, at 5 p.m. Other notable stores expected to open on the revered holiday include Best Buy, Kohl’s, Sears, Target and Walmart.
The Black Friday landscape is definitely changing – here are a couple insights. Black Friday isn’t the biggest shopping day of the year anymore. According to RetailNext on Oct. 6, the most profitable shopping day is projected to be Friday, December 23 — two days before Christmas. In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, consumers are getting bored, because the deals are always the same. No surprise and delight.
It’s a new frontier where retailers need creative, personalized and technically savvy tools to reach today’s consumer with a “see now buy now” mentality.
Here are few examples of retailers getting it right:
Alibaba: China’s largest e-commerce company holds its Global Shopping Festival every year on November 11. The festival unveils innovative marketing promotions and entertainment programs to enable the almost 100,000 participating merchants to build their brands. This year, some tactics included live fashion shows, new product releases, interactive games, and virtual reality shopping.
DSW: In an attempt to craft a more cohesive experience between online and in-store, DSW recently implemented “BOPIS,” buy online, pick up in store. Consumers don’t have to pay for shipping, and they can return the item right then and there if it doesn’t fit.
Nike: The five-story Nike Town store in Manhattan enables customers to hire an in-store personal trainer for individualized shopping or to train for Nike sponsored runs. The fifth floor features a design studio to customize gear on site including sports jerseys and footwear.
Sephora: Attempting to connect with their customers outside of the store, the beauty retailer was one of the first to utilize chatbots, a computer program designed to simulate how a human would communicate. Using the application “Kik,” consumers can ask the Sephora chatbot for product recommendations, makeup tips, and “how to-tutorials” in real time from their phones.
The Apartment: A new kind of clothing business, sells select fashion out of strategically designed apartments in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Customers see the products in walk-in closets and imagine themselves as the city-dwelling owner. Consumers are demanding more than fashionable leather jackets; they want help imagining their new identities wearing it.
For this Black Friday, we have a consumer that is extra tired and weary because of an election that was brutal. Retailers, traditional and online, will have to jump through hoops more than ever to nail that holiday purchase.
Perhaps the Detroit Free Press sums it up best:
2016: REI says it’s staying closed, again, on Black Friday. Macy’s announces it will open its stores earlier than ever — at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Walmart says it will start its in-store sale at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving. Stores make it easier than ever to buy doorbusters online. And yet, nobody seems especially excited. Election fatigue? Or shopping fatigue? Or both? Will Black Friday ever be great again?