Out of sorts


Pragma's research has revealed that a large proportion of customers in the outdoor market are not active outdoor participants.

In fact, we found that 35% of consumers who had shopped the category considered themselves only `Occasional' outdoor participants. Just 17% considered themselves as outdoor `Enthusiasts' and a mere 3%, `Extreme'. This may seem at odds with the highly technical products and marketing campaigns offered by many outdoor brands.

However, the gap between product pitch and practical use in the outdoor sector presents an opportunity for certain brands. Those that have been able to understand these nuances and accurately target segments of the casual outdoor market have experienced strong growth.

At the value end of the market, Mountain Warehouse has tapped into consumers looking for entry level products at accessible price points. CEO Mark Neale considers his best customer to be “someone like my mum - she is 75 and has never heard of Gore-Tex.” The business has developed a compelling customer proposition by combining a family friendly product offer with competitive price points. It’s a combination that has resonated well with the UK consumer - revenues have grown by 20% annually for the past 5 years.

In the midmarket, successful brands have diffused the fabric and technology of outdoor clothing into a style suitable for everyday life. `Technical Apparel for Recreation' is the ethos of US brand Outdoor Voices. Its products use the latest in fabric technology but remove the tropes of excessive branding and bright colours typically associated with outdoor brands. Outdoor Voices has generated $60m of funding to fuel a rapid expansion plan.

What can brands looking to attract these customers learn?

Marketing strategy
Occasional outdoor customers need to be targeted in an appropriate way. These consumers are less influenced by athlete endorsements and inspirational imagery. They seek practicality rather than professionalism. Successful brands offer an honest and relatable message, with social media providing a compelling channel to communicate this. For example, Outdoor Voices' Instagram page predominantly features pictures sent in by its customers. This presents the brand’s products in a genuine way, used by real people in daily life.

Brands should not be afraid to combine the best performing fabrics and technology with everyday clothing designs. While we now consider jeans a wardrobe staple, 100 years ago they were considered technical working gear. Brands that can tread the line between functional and fashionable can capitalise on consumers desire for both. Elements of this can be seen in North Face's `Black' range and Arc'teryx's `Veilance' line (seen above), which offer performance features in the guise of high street clothes.

The infrequent participant may not be a target for all outdoor brands, but it highlights the importance of understanding different customer segments in the market and how to target them effectively.

Edmund FitzGerald