What women want


The outdoor market is no longer a male preserve.

A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association showed that 51% of outdoor consumers were women. And these consumers are clearly not just shopping for their significant others. In our work with outdoor retailers we have found that sales of women's clothing have outpaced overall sales in recent years.

One outdoor retailer making significant efforts to better align its product, marketing strategy and shopping experience to the female consumer is The North Face. When Kath Smith became General Manager in 2017, she pledged to open up broader conversations with female consumers.

Accordingly, the #SheMovesMountains campaign celebrates the stories of inspirational women in exploration.  It permeated TV adverts, social media and even a new female-focused store in San Francisco. In addition, The North Face continues to launch expansive female collections inspired by female athletes. These lines are praised for the combination of high quality technical materials and fashionable styles. One blogger raved: "For me The North Face Thermoball jacket is a real winner. It is a super versatile offering that will not look out of place on city streets but that will keep you warm, even on those sub-zero days."

So, what do women really want?

It is not just a more fashion-led approach to technical clothing that women seek:

Studies show that women generally have a more positive attitude and a higher purchase intention of luxury brands than men. Sportalm is an Austrian ski-wear brand that is successfully tapping into this trend with its "luxe winter chic" brand positioning. Sportalm is now sold in 21 countries and has won a place at Berlin Fashion Week. The brand's creative director attributes its success with female consumers to the blend of modern design, innovative functional materials and passion for luxury details.

Ethically sourced
Research by Morgan Stanley shows that 21% of women stated ethical sourcing as "very important" vs 16% of men.  Surfing brand Finisterre only used ethically sourced materials and promises garments that are both sturdy and stylish.

Maternity wear
Numerous online bloggers bemoan the lack of technical outdoor wear to be worn during pregnancy for activities such as hiking. California-based adventure clothing company, Mountain Mama, was borne out of this frustration. The products have since won awards for design excellence & innovation, and the company has successfully expanded into equipment and accessories.

As with all successful retailers and brands, these companies have succeeded by truly engaging with the needs of their end consumer. As the economic status of women continues to grow, the opportunity for outdoor retailers to further tap into this powerful, and highly active consumer group is vast.

Sophie Hardaker