The outdoor market is particularly affected by seasonality, with brands and retailers suffering sales dips during fair weather. While most of us live in hope of warm, dry days, some of our clients in this sector report that better than expected weather can hit their sales significantly. Outdoor businesses are adapting their strategies and deploying new initiatives to help overcome the summer shortfall and reduce trading fluctuations.

Over the years, there has been a shift in the sector from kit purely designed for pursuits such as climbing, hiking and camping, towards inclusion of more generic lifestyle products, for which purchase is less tied to the seasons. Technical development no longer focusses solely on providing warmth and water resistance. Brands have developed their own versions of lightweight, breathable materials and increased their ranges of versatile products, such as soft shell jackets and base layers. As a result, we are seeing innovation increasingly geared towards wearability and style.

Extending into categories such as shorts, sunglasses and t-shirts, has broadened appeal in summer months; the footwear brand, Merrell now sells sandals alongside walking boots and snow boots. Moncler, the high-end French brand originally known for sleeping bags, jackets and tents now encompasses a full apparel range and is more associated with the catwalk and high end department stores.

Whilst not known for being trend-led, outdoor-wear is becoming increasingly fashionable. The North Face has established themselves as a lifestyle brand that offers a wide product range beyond waterproof jackets and skiwear, widely available through channels such as ASOS and Next. Hunter wellington boots follow key footwear trends and have been designed to be worn all year around, in town just as much as the country.

As well as reducing the risks associated with changes in weather, there are some simple ways of making the most of the opportunities given to capitalise on seasonality. Sending emails promoting padded jackets as the weatherman predicts snow for the weekend, or flexing your visual merchandising both in store and online promoting wellington boots when it is raining. Operationally, it requires tighter stock management and greater efficiency of sourcing. This allows retailers and brands to be more reactional to demand, reduce the need for markdown and buy into trends as they appear.

Caroline Pollard