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3 Strategy Trends To Expect From Outdoor Gear Brands In 2017

(Part 1 of 2)

I was fortunate enough to attend the 2016 Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show in Salt Lake City, the largest outdoor gear show in the U.S. The trip gave me an inside look at where the category is going. Here are some of the top trends that brands and their marketing firms should consider when planning their strategies for 2017.

  1. More aggressive marketing to women

    It's no secret that women's active wear has exploded over the last decade, growing to a $4.6B industry, and it looks like outdoor retailers are looking to get their piece of the pie. Most booths were filled with products marketed specifically to women, and this goes beyond athleisure. The marketing was all about badass women doing badass things in badass clothing and gear.

  2. Workwear clothing

    There used to be a clear distinction between clothing that looked great and outdoor adventure clothing that actually performed great. That won't be the case in 2017.

    The fashion brands are now trying to appeal more to the performance-minded audience and vice versa. A variety of workwear options will help blur the lines between hardcore adventure, on-the-job and everyday use. I saw Under Armour marketing to the hardcore hiking audience, Kelty marketing to the fitness and yoga audiences, Carhartt showing off the benefits of their multifunction clothing, Brooks and Salomon flexing their footwear's outdoor versatility, and Fjall Raven marketing their clothes to the industrial and hardworking audiences. People want clothing that does it all — performs well, fits comfortably, and looks great — and that's becoming the new standard.

  3. Big brands with big plans

    Although there has always been a huge push against mainstream culture and commerce in this category, big names such as Carhartt, Under Armour, Dickies, Skechers, New Balance, Adidas, and Brooks are all looking to make huge strides. And I believe they will succeed in the coming years. They know their products could be used for a wide array of outdoor activities, and they have the resources to make sure you know it, too.

    This will inevitably put pressure on the traditional hiking and camping brands. While most of these smaller brands rely on loyalists to continue growing, their bigger competitors know that they only need to convert a small percentage of the outdoor adventure audience to create a stronger presence. Incumbent brands will need to be aggressive to hold their ground.

All outdoor gear brands will need to keep an eye on these trends, not only to avoid being left behind but also to find ways of setting themselves apart. Check back soon for a follow-up article outlining key opportunities to differentiate your brand within the outdoor adventure category.