Sporting Goods Business recently reported that Camping is gaining ground with millennials and minority groups. This caught our attention as we’re constantly on the lookout for strategies and tactics to reach these consumers as the outdoor industry depends on it. SGB reported that “ Within the past year alone, camping has attracted more than 1 million new households, thanks in part to growing participation by minority and millennial groups, according to the 2016 North American Camping Report, an annual independent study supported by Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA).”
A couple highlights from that report:
- 18% of these new campers are African-American
- 11% are Hispanic
- 44% are millennials (of which 54% are nonwhite)
It's particularly interesting as past research indicated many nonwhite groups do not feel welcome at public campgrounds, it appears these groups are responding to efforts to get them outdoors and feeling great about it. The intent to visit public campgrounds has become robust, with African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American campers expressing desire to visit these locations in larger numbers — and many packing up for the weekend to do so.
Why? The report explains that relaxation and stress relief are the top overall reasons people attested to camping. And one-in-five campers said camping allows them to spend more time vacationing.
Another interesting finding: It’s not about unplugging. Technology is working in favor of pitching tents, promoting greater mobility and knowledge of different campgrounds, especially for new campers. The KOA study noted that African Americans are most likely to bring along a variety of electronics while camping including smart phones (80 percent), and they are most likely to request Wi-Fi availability at a campground, which they use to look up information about the local area, trails and campgrounds.
I talked with Dan Rogers – Product Line Manager at The North Face for his thoughts:
OD: What are some of the trends you’re seeing in camping participation?
TNF: We are seeing more people, especially young people, getting outside to do a wide variety of activies and camping becomes a good way to find a place to stay on the cheap. These people enjoy being outside and camping is a means to and end and a bonus activity for the weekend. Alternatively there are people who go camping for the sole purpose of going camping and engaging with nature, usually car camping at a park and exploring by hiking. So while we are seeing traditional backpacking decline we are seeing an increase in people car camping just to enjoy the outdoors.
OD: What kind of R+D does TNF engage in to ensure the product meets the changing consumer demand?
TNF: We engage in traditional market research (looking at internal and external sales) to look at trends in the industry and we also have a consumer research department that works to identity consumer insights for the brand and for specific projects we are working on. Additionaly, in the equipment department, we try to get outside and test products and at the same time see what people are up to, what they are using and how they are camping. That gives us some local anacdotal information and we also attend regional events throughout the year to engage with that community and se how they are getting outside. Even climbing events like Red Rocks Rendevous that aren't camping focused involve camping and we get to see what people are using and how they set up camp.
OD: How are you adapting the product line to accommodate the new outdoor enthusiast?
TNF: We are constantly looking at ways to ensure we offer a full range of products to support what our consumers are doing in the outdoors. We are also always looking for opportunities to bring new customers to the brand by offering new products that speak to their needs. A great example is our new S16 Homestead collection. It's a collection of camping products designed around the idea of the weekend basecamp that we are seeing as a trend with younger consumers. They are going out for a weekend with a large group of friends to hike, bike, surf and get out of an urban environment. They do activities during the day and then come back to party around the campfire. We often are focused make really serious product like our Summit series tents (also new for S16) so it was a exciting for the team to make product that was more casual and fun. The product is simple, versatile and fun, the features are intuitive for new users, the colors are bold and interesting and the prices are accessible. The collection is great example of building product around a specific user and market trend....it also helps that we had a lot of these users at TNF to do the hard work and go on weekend trips (like abalone diving on the NorCal coast) to test out the new gear!