We asked Andrew Denton CEO of The Outdoor Industry Association in the UK to look into his crystal ball for 2016 and share with us what he can see…
Outdoor Recreation in the UK
Enthusiasm for getting Outdoors is at an all time high – Recent survey by Natural England showed that 3.12 billion visits were made to the Outdoors last year a substantial increase on last. Outdoor Recreation is in fact the nations favourite pastime when you bunch together all the activities. It might just be walking your dog in the forest, or taking the family along the ‘Grufalo Trail’ , or climbing the north face of Ben Nevis – there is no doubt that participation is on the rise.
This is good news for government and there is significant interest being shown in the trend and resource put to increase the growth.
Because we have a problem in the UK – one of the least active nations in the world, only 30% of adults reach their minimum active target for a healthy life & over 30% of kids leave primary school obese. We have more time spent in front of a screen than sleeping in bed, 1 in 6 NHS beds are taken up by avoidable Type 2 Diabetes – a life style disease. The list of indicators goes on, but the fact is the UK has stopped moving, we eat too much rubbish, we don’t move enough and the NHS simply cannot support that much longer.
So we all need to ‘Get Active Outdoors’ – and departments like Sport, Tourism, Health, Education and Transport are all starting to realise that. Get people to stay in this country for a holiday, get them active and outdoors you will start to halt the slide, money will stay here in the economy, and they will be healthier too – it’s a win- win situation and departments from Sport England to Visit England, Natural England to Public Health England are all talking Outdoor Recreation – we are saving lives and saving the day!
So what does that mean to you the Outdoor Consumer?
Well, maybe not exactly what you think. You see other things are changing. 80% of the population lives in a city, and they don’t have the time or money to go to the Lakes or Wales. Populations are aging, the growing BME community playing a bigger role in trends. Sport and activity is consumed in smaller chunks, fitted into a busy life., and not at all the way it was a generation ago.
So it may not be a backpacking trip to the Lakes, Outdoors may look very different. Urban & Lifestyle outdoor sports are the fastest growing area in the sector, assault courses, weekend challenges, short sharp trips – a zip wire, Go Ape, a tree-top trek, an hour down the climbing wall – all these are preferable to a 5 day backpacking trip on the coast to coast.
The new US brand Polar make gear “For people that wonder why everyone is trying to pretend they are going to climb Everest.” and they are growing faster than you can say “The North Face”
I think that Outdoor recreation is going to be huge, I do however think that many of the existing brands, retailers and consumers may not recognise it as the 1990’s ‘Outdoor’ they knew, as it arrives.
So if we are looking ahead what does Generation Z think and look like – college kids about to take on the world?
They have on average 5 screens. They do not even CONSIDER being offline – technology is a totally integral part of their life, from social to buying to outdoor.
That technology is geo aware, knows what they like, what they buy and rewards they want, where when and how they move, it is an integral part of their outdoor experience.
They share – their thoughts, their diaries, their images, their buying decisions, the places they love to go – they are community focused – the Social media generation.
They are more and more a blended generation – gender and racial battles have been fought, this future wonders what the fuss was about.
They are realists growing up in a world we have screwed up for them. They have big debts, no chance of buying a home, and they look on the greed that caused a lot of the issues with distaste. We let them down, they are more humble, want to make something for themselves and of their life, and for their community.
There is a whole generation now of young injured men back from war who still want to get outdoors – IED injuries be dammed – will we welcome them? Will gear or environment adapt?
The world has moved on, the baby Boomers created ‘The Outdoors’ – conquered the peaks, built the brands, the images were hard core and aspirational, they paid a years salary to climb Everest. Now volunteering, glamping, burning man, festivals, families and dogs – community is important, not the lone lantern jawed rugged mountain man.
New brands, new sports, new people in your outdoors. Snap chatting on a summit, instagram posting their sefie as they climb, these people are new, they are different and they will define outdoors as they see it, not as their parents did.
Outdoor Recreation IS growing, culture is changing , it could well be for the better, there is huge social need for us to embrace it and ensure that the growth welcomes everyone, Get Outdoors, get healthy, save your country in the process – just remember, people will choose their own way to do it.