“Backpacking and camping gear is flying off the shelves this year”, said a store manager I know who works at a major outdoor retailer.
“We haven’t seen anything like this since the 70’s,” the last time that backpacking was popular in the United States.
Has the economy improved or are people so inspired by the movie “Wild” that backpacking has become popular again? Is demand being driven by younger millennials or are droves of middle-aged hikers quitting work and heading for the hills?
“We’ve run out tents in our warehouse,” said another rep for a big gear manufacturer I know. “I’ll get you one as soon as our warehouse catches back up.”
It’s the same story with another gear manufacturer.
“We’re completely out of stock. Let me get back to you later in the summer and I’ll see if we have any.”
You know product demand is high when multi-national gear companies run out of stock!
Out of Stock or Back-Ordered
While big gear companies and outdoor retailers have enough depth in their product catalogs to keep consumers satisfied with alternative products, the picture is not as rosy for smaller gear manufacturers that make gear-to-order. They’re heavily backordered, by several months or more, and have the potential to lose business because their customers can’t wait for products that take several months to arrive.
“The problem is that we don’t have the credit line to buy large quantities of material in advance, so we’ve had to delay order deliveries until we can catch up with our back orders,” said the owner of one small “cottage” gear company I spoke with.
Out of stock notices are also widespread on big retailer websites like REI.com and Campsaver.com for select mid-size outdoor brands, even though they’re are more financially sophisticated.
“We had to guess on how much inventory to stock this year and we’re close to running out of some items,” said another medium-sized gear company spokesperson I spoke with.
Supply Chain Disruptions
There’s also been some disruptions in the outdoor gear supply chain with a major Asian tent manufacturer going bankrupt and material shortages in the US.
“Our silnylon supplier went out of business and I have a very limited amount of fabric in that color.” said a company owner I spoke to.
“We were really worried about the California dock worker striker earlier this year because we had shipping containers full of gear coming from our factories in Vietnam and China,” said a sales manager I know at a big gear company.
Will Customers Wait for Backordered Gear?
“Millennials want a very different relationship to their gear companies than older customers,” said another small company manager I spoke with. “They’re willing to wait for specialized products.”
“I guess I’m over-the-hill,” I replied.
“I’m not willing to wait all summer for my gear to arrive. The clock is ticking and I need to use my health while I have it.”
What about you?
- What do you think is the reason behind backpacking’s sudden popularity?
- Are you willing to wait for back-ordered gear to come back in stock or will you buy another company’s products so you can make the most of this year with the outdoor gear that’s already available?
Please leave a comment.