Outdoor retailers have a long and successful relationship with families and businesses, but a new generation of outdoor apparel and accessories may soon be making their way into families’ hands.
While retailers are now increasingly making purchases online and in-store, some of the best options for parents and outdoor enthusiasts are being made available to parents, said Marc Davenport, a spokesman for the Canadian Outdoor Trade Association, which represents more than 500 outdoor retailers.
“What we’ve seen over the last few years is a tremendous shift toward the online marketplace,” Davenports said in an interview.
“People are shopping for gear and they’re shopping for products that are designed for kids, for parents, for families.”
A typical outdoor store typically sells items such as shoes, socks, and jackets.
But online retailers can offer a wider range of products, including sports equipment and apparel.
Outdoor stores and outdoor gear sellers have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years because of the proliferation of so-called “gift” products such as gift cards that retailers can sell to customers who have purchased similar items.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a problem,” said Davenps, who is also a spokesman with the Canadian Association of Outdoor Retailers.
“There’s definitely a need to be more sophisticated about product recommendations and to differentiate between the best in-person and online options.”
In addition to online shopping, retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target are increasingly partnering with schools and colleges to help students find and purchase gear.
The trend is particularly notable in Alberta, which has one of the highest percentages of students who are active in outdoor sports.
But Davens said parents in the province are also finding it easier to find affordable gear that meets their needs.
“The good news is that it’s not necessarily the best quality of product or the best price,” he said.
“You can find a great pair of hiking boots for $10 at a thrift store, or a good pair of tennis shoes for $15 at Target.
It’s just different.
There’s a big difference between the quality of the product and the price.”
Many of the outdoor retailers Davenamps represents have already taken steps to address the concerns of parents, including increasing the amount of product options available to kids, offering online shopping options and more.
The Canadian Outdoor Association has also been working with the federal government to make outdoor gear more accessible to young people, including expanding online safety education to more students and offering grants for parents to make purchases at the outdoor store.
But in the meantime, Davenpts said parents are continuing to find the best of the market.
“Parents still have a lot to learn about the outdoor lifestyle,” he noted.
“They’re still figuring out what to wear and what not to wear.”
Davenpos said he hopes to see the trend continue to grow.
“I think kids are just going to love these more.
They’re going to want to play and explore,” he predicted.