Outside Business Journal

2020 OBJ Retailer Survey results, part 1: Sales volume

136 independent retailers across the country responded to our annual survey this year, weighing in on topics like the best and worst brands to work with, bestselling hard and softgoods, and more. After crunching the numbers, the results are ready to share with the industry.

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It’s been a long time coming, but the OBJ Retailer Survey is finally back. A few years have passed since our last iteration of this series, and in that time, the industry has changed a lot. New players have come onto the scene. Some old favorites have said farewell. And of course, this year, everything was flipped on its head as we figured out how to come together as a community and help each other through one of the most challenging periods in the history of our industry.

So consider this a new beginning for the OBJ Retailer Survey series. The data this year are bound to be a little wild, given the whiplash of the pandemic, but they’re illuminating nonetheless, and a good place to start.

Breakdown of respondents

To understand the numbers we’ll present over the next several week, it will help to understand who responded to our survey—the jobs our participants hold and the businesses they represent.

We chose to open the survey to anyone working in independent outdoor retail, at any level, in any shop. We got 136 responses from across the country, from Alaska all the way to Maine. The majority of respondents were owners, presidents, founders, and CEOs of gear shops, but we also received entries from managers, buyers, sales associates, mechanics, merchandise planners, operations directors, and more.

We asked respondents to identify their specific store type, and found that the largest share of participants—33.8 percent—worked at traditional outdoor speciality shops, with more niche categories like bike shops and paddlesport stores accounting for the rest.

Specifically, the numbers came in as follows

  • Traditional outdoor specialty (33.8 percent of respondents)
  • Lifestyle plus outdoor specialty (16.9 percent)
  • Cycling only (11.8 percent)
  • Paddlesports plus outdoor speciality (10.3 percent)
  • Cycling plus outdoor speciality (5.1 percent)
  • Snow sports plus outdoor speciality (5.9 percent)
  • Traditional sporting goods plus outdoor speciality (3.7 percent)
  • Other (12.5 percent)

Sales volume, 2019 and 2020

The pandemic brought crippling hardship to some industries. Thankfully, specialty outdoor retail was not one of them—a trend clearly reflected in the data we gathered.

Overall, we found that sales volume decreased slightly from 2019 to 2020. The graphs below show a slight overall slump in average sales, mainly due to a decrease in the $5M+ category, which fell from 14.7 percent to 11.8 percent.


What’s coming next

This is just the beginning. In the coming weeks, we have much more data coming out, from the best and most difficult manufacturers to do business with, to the bestselling brands in various hard and softgoods categories, to the fastest-growing gear categories overall, and much more.

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