For many, the idea of ‘the outdoors’ conjures up images of long hikes and extreme challenges, but the idea of outdoor activities can be quite different for younger generations.

They often combine the traditional notion of outdoor with fashion, sport and entertainment and consider camping at festivals as much an outdoor activity as an older person might consider hiking. This is quite a change from the traditional notion many outdoor retailers have of their customer base and some are struggling to keep up with these changing demands.

In our work in the outdoor sector we have identified three trends in purchasing behaviour for younger consumers:

Because of the focus on technical aspects of outdoor clothing, many brands have lost sight of how appealing the product is aesthetically. The need for younger consumers to look good has led to fashion brands such as Topshop and Urban Outfitters launching their own athleisure ranges, tapping into the demand from younger consumers.

Traditional brands have generally competed on the technical capabilities of their products and some have now reached a point beyond what the consumer perceives as a necessity to the activity. At the same time, they have overlooked trends and demands from the younger generation. Rumpl, who sell high performance blankets, have been successful in producing products that are technical enough to do the job, but also look great and engage young consumers effectively through social media.

The younger consumer doesn’t always recognise the value in the overly high specification products that many retailers offer, so is often turned off by the high price tags that accompany them. However, to maintain premium price points with younger consumers, it is imperative for brands to create value by delivering the specifications of the products that the younger consumer values. Some brands have tried to combat this by launching sub brands: Mountain Warehouse, for example, launched Zakti, who sell at a similar price point to Mountain Warehouse, but offer a range of fashion forward active wear targeting a younger consumer.

This change in the market has spurred an influx of new, small, niche brands. For example,Alite targets younger consumers and links their website to events and their Instagram; Hipcamp is the latest version of Airbnb, but purely for campsites. These brands are understanding the fashion and technicality values of the younger consumer and are tailoring their products and services to meet these needs, at appropriate price points.

Ailis Topley