Active Lifestyle Market 2023 Vision … Part Three

SGB tapped key leaders in the active lifestyle space to share their outlook for 2023. In this third installment, a series of responses assess what they see for the year ahead. The last episode will run on Friday. The first part can be read hereand second, here.

Mike Barnes
Co-founder and CEO of Selkirk Sport
Pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in North America for the past five years, and recreational and professional participation continues to rise. The sport provides a fun physical activity with a smooth learning curve for people of all ages and skill levels. Pickleball offers a unique combination of intergenerational play and social community. The enthusiasm and emotional investment in the sport is palpable across the board and growing with each passing day.

Our business reflects what is happening in sports, and our challenge is to continue to innovate and develop new technologies that allow all players to enjoy the game at the highest performance level. The passion of the players is clearly there and our job at Selkirk Sport is to promote the fun and social aspects of the game while continuing to grow. We are optimistic the sport will continue to grow in popularity at all levels and retailers will expand their pickleball product offerings due to increased demand.

Brian Davidson
NA President, Nikwax
We feel very positive about 2023 and believe that the economy and supply chain will continue to rebalance. In 2022, Nikwax has become an employee trust, bringing an increased sense of responsibility, new enthusiasm and enthusiasm for our journey forward. With legislative deadlines in California, and just recently announced, NY, to transition to PFC-free chemistry in early 2025, we look forward to supporting brands in transitioning away from PFAS chemicals. With our 45-year history of refining PFC-free chemistry and performance and the recent launch of Nikwax Hydrophobic Down industry solutions, we will help outdoor brands meet these deadlines while exceeding customer expectations and previous performance metrics.

Kent Ebersole
Interim Executive Director, Outdoor Industry Association (OIA)
The outdoor industry has faced many challenges in recent years, but we have emerged stronger than ever. Our economic impact reached new heights of $862 billion, along with our growing community of 4.5 million employees and their families. We have also been fortunate to have strong allies in the White House and Congress who have advanced many of our key goals. As we look ahead to 2023, several of our key priorities will be on board. We will work closely with policymakers to ensure that the historic “American Outdoor Recreation Act” is enacted. We will continue to advocate for the “Restoring America the Beautiful” initiative to preserve 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 and look for ways to advance our priorities in the upcoming Farm Bill. We will also continue to monitor and consider subsequent sustainability and regulatory issues facing our members nationally and across states. We will advocate for bold action that prioritizes access close to home, green infrastructure in nature-deprived areas, and climate policy, conservation, and natural climate solutions at the federal and state levels.

Fabrizio Gamberini
Global Chief Brand Officer & President, Vibram Corp.
The current situation is tricky. Stocks are still very high across the board. I have heard of many yet-to-be-open containers of outdoor product coming from Asia outside the parking lot of one of America’s major retailers. Clearly, the supply chain impacts are now shifting in the opposite direction – excess product. And then inflation created very high costs, mortgages. All of this affects consumer behavior. All corporations focus on three main items – working capital (lower number of SKUs, fewer projects but large quantities, better conditions, etc.); Editing of the organization, because the organization sometimes tends to grow in a mushroom format; and Sourcing and does not mean reducing the cost of material , but choosing what is good and what is not.

And in this humbled horizon, for the outdoors, is opportunity. In the past, during the great financial crisis of 2008/9, outdoor space was affected, but only partially. Instead of travel, instead of big ticket items, the outdoors can become an opportunity for consumers to gain peace and relaxation. In terms of trends, we are seeing a strong streak of investment in trail running, both marketing and innovation. Also, and no less important, wellness and well-being. And we play a part in all of this with our Vibram FiveFingers training tool. For the first time in years, especially after COVID, I’m seeing more focus on what we eat, how we train our bodies, how much we sleep, and our mental health.

Last but not least, sustainability and the circular economy will be important. It was very evident that the related communication and related embarrassment was slowing down somewhat, perhaps due to highly visible instances of greenwashing. But I see more interest in “extending product life cycles”. A kind of regenerative life. This is evident in certain trends, i.e. resoling is one of the most visible. Once again, Vibram is playing a leading role in our Repair if you Care campaign using our network of cobblers.

Jason Jabaut
COO, Fleet Feet
This is an exciting time for a special run. After several years of limited social interaction, we are seeing great participation in group and fun runs, training programs and in-store events. When Fleet Feet opened its doors in 1976, it became a community hub, and our customers across the country are ready to return and connect with other people who love to run. It’s a really energizing feeling that I think is felt throughout the industry. From a product perspective, our customers are interested in innovative, relatively new brands and are hungry for fresh styles. Brands like Altra and Karhu are still relatively small but mighty, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see their market share increase in the coming year. We’re a little concerned about the amount of product that’s on the market and we expect the first half of the year to be challenging with downward pressure based on the amount that’s available. At the same time, we are optimistic about our ability to meet these challenges thanks in large part to strong partnerships with our suppliers.

Dan Sheridan
COO & President, Brooks Running
Attracting new runners in 2023 will be exciting and intense as I have not seen a more competitive field in my 25 years at Brooks. Our industry is still reeling from the negative impacts of the supply chain disruptions that began in 2021, and we see headwinds continuing into this year. However, our category and Brooks have weathered challenging market environments well before, and historical trends indicate that running will continue to touch people’s lives even as we face economic uncertainty. Our 2023 outlook reflects significant investment in global expansion, including building momentum in China and EMEA and serving runners and retailers to better meet demand worldwide. We also look forward to delivering new product innovations and signature designs that will accelerate through 2024. Although the category ebbs and flows, participation in running, trail running, walking and hiking will continue to grow over the long term and people will seek out products and brands they can trust.

Jean-Marie Shields
Global Community Director, Fjällräven
We expect the growing interest in outdoor activities to continue into 2023. Since the pandemic, more and more people are getting outside to explore nature, and we don’t expect this momentum to slow down. Fjällräven has always seen great interest in our outdoor events, but participation has accelerated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more and more people spend time in nature, there is a growing demand for timeless, durable and functional products that are not only made sustainably, but also make nature more attractive and accessible. Fjällräven believes that the more time people spend in nature, the more they will appreciate and respect it. As more people get outside, we will continue to focus on how clothes are made, the durability and life cycle of clothes and their functionality.

Dave Spandorfer
Co-founder and CEO, Janji
If the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that planning and forecasting in a globalized world can be stupid. But I’ll do it anyway. In 2023, Janji expects inventory in the running, outdoor and active space to take a right turn as retailers become conservative in purchasing and brands drastically reduce purchase orders. It could take a full year for inventory rates to return to normal, but if higher-income consumer spending continues at current levels in the fourth quarter, we could go from oversupply to undersupply incredibly quickly.

I think we will see continued progress in sustainability and creating a fairer outdoor and running world. But new brands that deeply hold these values ​​may struggle to differentiate themselves as direct-to-consumer and wholesale channels become increasingly challenging in 2023. It is up to all retailers to continue to support value-based brands. That being said, I give a lot of credit to many of our retail partners, like REI, for prioritizing these brands and focusing on the long-term future of our industry despite the challenging environment of 2022.

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