Consumers Are Trading in Summer Vacation Plans for the Great Outdoors

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As Americans continue to make changes due to the coronavirus pandemic, new summer vacation trends have begun to emerge.

After weeks, and in some cases months, of staying indoors many have started looking at camping and road trips as the ideal social distancing activity. According to NPD Group, as national parks and other parts of the country begin to reopen, key camping, RV and road trip items are seeing double and triple-digit growth.

Data from the 2020 North American Camping report, by Kampgrounds of America in April, found that while timing remains unclear for when Americans will feel comfortable enough to start traveling there are indications that camping is well-positioned to rebound quicker than other types of travel. Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has drawn more campers and first-time campers to the activity.

NPD’s retail sales data supports these findings, showing camping equipment sales experiencing acceleration during the last two weeks of April and increases for camping basics including recreation tents, hammocks, camp sets and campfire equipment.

“Cabin fever has set in big time, as the lockdown and work-from-home lifestyle continues to be followed by much of the nation. Families are looking for a safe escape to save their summer vacation. As a result, there’s an uptick in consumers gearing up for outdoor activities and road trips, whether local or more long-distance,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry adviser. “NPD data from other industries show sales increases for U.S. travel books, road maps and atlases, and outdoor toys. There’s a sweeping trend at play here; from the backyard to the campground, consumers are seeking refuge in the outdoors.”

Similarly, Afterpay has seen three times its usual activity in the camping and outdoor category during COVID-19. The company has seen twice as many customers searching for “camping” on its site and four times as many consumers searching for tents. Other popular search terms included: hiking boots, flashlight and cargo pants. Top merchants in these searches were Birkenstock, Carhartt, Igloo and Freedom Industries, among others.

Outdoor specialty retailer REI Co-op — which announced a retail partnership with West Elm at the end of May aimed to help people feel at home outdoors — said online sales have shown trends of consumers looking to stay close to home during the quarantine. Hammocks, air mattresses, camp kitchen items and outdoor furniture are performing highly in recent months.

Paul Calandrella, general merchandising manager for camping at REI, said the retailer’s member community has also shown a lot of creativity as to how they are recreating now, from plans to camp in the backyard with families of young kids to road trips. This trend, he said, includes day camping as well where people are looking to experience hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.

Notably, outdoor recreational activities are getting attention from both new and lifelong outdoor participants. “I think camping is one of those activities that for some folks it may be a lifelong sort of experience but it goes dormant for a minute for other priorities,” Calandrella said. “And I’m sure we are seeing myriad people that it’s occurring for the first time and then our enthusiasm audiences always scheming about their next trip out so I would say as a general statement, it’s a pretty good mix of the indoctrinated.”

For both the experienced and novice participants, REI has been encouraging safety through its Recreate Responsibly initiative, which advocates health and keeping public lands and waters open and safe.

Tools to equip RVs have also seen increases as Americans consider summer road trips. RV travel is poised to be a popular vacation plan this year, according to the 2020 THOR North American RV Consumer Survey Report, which found that 79 percent of consumers plan to use an RV the same amount or and 39 percent planning to use it more this year. The survey found that key factors for consumers determining RV trips were the opening of campgrounds followed by the reduction of the COVID-19 spread.

For More WWD Business News:

Outdoor Brands Talk Coronavirus Impacts, Offer Wellness Advice

Recovery and Resurgence With POS Financing

Consumer Impulse Buys Jump in April

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