IMG_1267CGPR president Chris Goddard looks at what’s ahead for the outdoor retail industry for 2016.

What is your industry outlook for the year ahead?

In a few words, “steady as she goes” with more peaks than valleys.

While the unusually warm weather is wreaking havoc with apparel sales and ski resorts in the east and the Presidential election turning into its own Saturday Night Live skit serving up distractions; the passion for outdoor activities remains both constant and robust. We have seen this resilience previously, especially during the 2008 recession.

Going outdoors provides consumers with solace for the soul and respite for the body especially from harrowing headlines about despicable terrorist attacks, police confrontations or politicians gone rogue (and to think this year, we don’t even have Sarah Palin).

Consumers have never had greater choices with gear, apparel or accessories. Outdoor gear is more than keeping up with tech savvy engineering; apparel is now infused with next generation components from Microban, PrimaLoft, and W.L. Gore & Associates, all unveiling a steady stream of innovations, and accessories are filling every nook and cranny of outdoor retail space fulfilling a purpose we did not even know we needed. In other words, consumers, young and old, have never been more comfortable or more protected for their outdoor pursuits.

The very definition of ‘outdoor’ is evolving to be much more inclusive, which is responsible for inviting more consumers to experience the outdoors and enabling new product categories to enter our world. Yes, there will always be the hard-core consumer, the top of the pyramid, who have even more technical choices of what to wear and what to bring. However, we have an increased number of weekend warriors entering the outdoor community and they are entering from different places especially cities.

The world of indoor climbing is propelling the next generation of outdoor gear consumers these young consumers may start in the climbing gym, but they go outside as a next step.

Lastly, social media is a hefty bullhorn for communicating the who, what, and where when it comes to providing information about how to become involved in the outdoors, what to wear and where to go. There has been an explosion of social media options that are tools for our messengers.

For all of these reasons above, I feel that the industry outlook is very bright and we are pleased to be partners with some of the most iconic brands in this community making a difference.

What concerns you?

The uncertainty of the election, the future policies of our politicians and the preservation of green space. This is a real concern.

The lack of diversity as far as who is participating in outdoor activities and access for those less fortunate.

The growing prevalence of the ‘virtual world’ that makes the decision not to go outside that much easier and also provides a baby sitter for parents too busy to introduce their kids to the outdoors.

What Gives You Optimism?

Our absolute commitment to never giving up, e.g. the re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The immense progress we are making in the supply chain process.

The fact that we have the best and brightest in this industry capable of amazing design.

The fact that no one can take away the benefits of outdoors from any one of us.

As long as we do our best to protect where we play, we will have the fresh air, peace and quiet and humbling scenery of the outdoors there are very few other industries that can say this.

Guess I am just an optimist at heart.