While paddlesports sales were treading water at best prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has put them back on the path to prosperity, with sales blossoming throughout the summer. Joining bikes, camping, golf, bird/nature watching and firearms, the category has proven more than resilient as more and more people look to recreate outside.
Often seen as bulky and expensive, traditional paddlesport products have historically presented a challenge to retailers from an inventory management standpoint. But this summer, existing inventory quickly converted into sales, as consumers sought activities that would keep them active and socially distant. According to data consultant NPD, sales of paddlesport products increased 56% in June 2020 versus the prior year, reaching sales of $172 million.
Inflatable kayaks and paddleboards also gained popularity as consumers found they were easier to store and less expensive. In June 2017, inflatables represented 19% of paddleboard unit sales and 9% of recreational kayak unit sales. In June 2020, say NPD, those figures stood at 66% and 26%, respectively.
“At first, COVID caused a wave of order cancellations that broke our shipping cycle,” said Peter Hall, president of Colorado-based sup maker Hala Gear. “But then we saw the best demand cycle we’ve ever seen. It’s the same reason everyone’s been buying bikes — people want to get outside and find their own island, and SUPs are perfect for that.”
“It’s been sheer insanity,” adds Mike Harvey of SUP-maker BadFish. “Normally, we’re way into our taper by now, but it’s still crazy.”
Other inflatable craft have also taken off.
“We’re seeing a big uptick in sales for all types of inflatable watercraft,” says Mark Demming of NRS. “We’ve seen a higher demand across the board. Paddling and rafting are tailor made for social distancing, and these smaller crafts are a great way for people to get started in the sport. And being on the water is great therapy.”
With higher turnover in the short term, the group adds, many retailers will need to reset their inventories, monitoring industry trends to ensure they stock products that will be both popular and profitable in the future.