As we reported in the last issue of the Compass, the European outdoor market increased by 3.1 percent at the wholesale level last year according to the annual market research study conducted by the European Outdoor Group (EOG), reaching an estimated level of €4,776 million. Extrapolating mark-ups, the EOG has calculated that the market was worth more than €10 billion at the retail level, excluding sales taxes.

The NPD Group is now saying that the consumption of outdoor products was flat in Europe in 2013, amounting to €16.3 billion including sales taxes. The difference is apparently due to the methodology and to the much wider definition given by NPD to the outdoor market.

While the EOG based its 2013 estimates on the sell-in figures supplied by 112 brands and retailers, NPD based its own data on an online survey of more than 500,000 consumers in eight countries. Moreover, the NPD figures cover many types of activities that are excluded from the EOG panel including all kinds of clothing, footwear and equipment for snow sports, surf, hunting, fishing and mountain bikes, plus nautical shoes and clothing.

Without disclosing any specific figures, NPD says that the wider market was affected last year by a decline in the snow sports market, particularly in Germany, Italy and Spain. The market research company said that sales of women's outdoor clothing declined by 7 percent in Europe, in contrast to those of men's products, indicating that the sports brands have been unable to appeal sufficiently to women - a subject that we are handling in a dedicated report on the women's market in Germany.

NPD says that the decline in the European snow sports market last year was partly offset by higher sales of hiking and trekking products - notably in the footwear segment in France, Germany and Spain. In 2012, the European snow sports market had gone up, contributing to the 2 percent increase estimated by NPD for the total outdoor market based on its own definition.

NPD noted that France was the only major European market where sales of outdoor products, including ski clothing, increased last year. French consumers bought 4.7 million pairs of hiking and trekking shoes in 2013, or 11 percent more than in the previous year, outperforming the German market, where sales of this type of product reached about 4 million pairs.

Commenting on the NPD report, officials of the EOG said that the overall trends and values in comparable areas seem to be very similar to those of its own market study, but it sees higher footwear figures than in France in other markets, such as Germany.

In contrast with NPD, the EOG also noted that the very extreme weather conditions in Italy have favored the sales of technical products as opposed to lifestyle brands.

NPD said that the poor snowfalls last year affected mostly the overall decline in the textile sector, where breathable and waterproof jackets continued to enjoy an upward trend. Its survey, which also covers the outdoor products of the generalist sports brands, showed poor sales of polar fleece outerwear.