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Escapist urge helps outdoor apparel firms weather slump by Lans
October 14, 2009, 9:30 am
Filed under: Retail

By Florence de Vries

Companies that sell outdoor apparel and equipment appear to have fared well during the recession largely because they cater to specialist markets.

Morné Strydom, the marketing manager of outdoor apparel group First Ascent, believes what sets it and its competitors apart from the rest of the clothing retail sector is the focus on products designed for niche outdoor activities such as climbing, kayaking and mountain biking.

“These are not mainstream sports like soccer, rugby and cricket, where the bulk of the market for outdoor goods is focused,” he said.

Strydom said that the key to staying afloat during the recession was remaining relevant to its target market, who were in the living standards measure (LSM) 8 to 10 bracket.

Despite the downturn, the group managed to maintain an upward trend in sales in the past year, though it did not grow as much as hoped.

Strydom believes the higher-LSM customer, who had been hardest hit by the recession, is likely to still buy outdoor gear for the purposes of “escaping the daily drudgery”.

Cape Union Mart chief executive Philip Krawitz said that the group’s outdoor apparel had to be of exceptional value if customers were to keep coming back. “In this market, products have to be durable,” he said.

Cape Union Mart took a knock in sales performance over the past year largely because of a decline in tourists, and locals staying put during the recession.

Shanay Narsi, an analyst from BoE Private Clients, said that apparel sales performance was likely to be better than equipment, as equipment was more durable.

Foschini financial director Ronnie Stein said that the group’s Due South chain decided to change its merchandising mix and would soon be stocking its own Due South brand as well as the imported and more expensive The North Face and Columbia brands.

Capestorm said that in the past year its destination stores had fared better than stores that were located in shopping centres. Andrew Baxter, the managing director, said the group anticipated improvements in revenue in the summer selling period.

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