As we look back on 2017, a few common themes emerge in the adventure sports and outdoor space. We’ve put together a list of stories that shaped the year as they unfolded, from January through the final hours of 2017.
It’s no secret that brick and mortar retail has been challenged this year, an unfortunately, the news that American Apparel would be shuttering 110 of its U.S. locations was some of the more heavy retail news to start off the year.
For avid surf fans and readers all over the globe, the news that Surfing magazine would close its doors left ripples in an already consolidated surf universe. The strategic move, however, placed SURFER front and center, poised to continue its reign as the long-standing bible of the sport.
The dispute over Utah’s public lands designation leads to outdoor industry uproar
Kicking off a chain of events that saw us right through the end of 2017, Governor Gary Herbert signed a resolution in February urging the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument, which President Obama had put in place at the end of his term.
A chain reaction of outdoor industry support for Bears Ears led to protest of the state and its decision by key brands like Patagonia, Arc’teryx and PolarTec pulling out of the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.
At the same time, REI and The North Face pledged to remain loyal to the show as they re-evaluated venue options. The issue had everyone talking, with no shortage of opinions and ideas.
Despite overwhelming unpopularity from the outdoor industry and its multi-million dollar influence in the state, Utah’s state officials refused to budge on the issue.
Billabong sells Tigerlily brand
The signs of Billabong’s efforts to unload brands and regain its position in the market started in 2016 with the sale of Sector 9, and continued into 2017 with Tiger Lily’s acquisition by Crescent Capital Partners.
Resort consolidation was an ongoing theme in 2017
In the first of many moves in 2017 by major resort corporations, Vail Resorts announced in February its plans to purchase Stowe for $50 million.
Major changes at adventure sports companies
In March, several big names went through some rather large changes. GoPro, which underwent a few setbacks with its drone recall, made the decision to eliminate 270 positions across its multi-headquarter locations.
Around the same time, Quiksilver Inc. underwent an identity overhaul. While the iconic Quiksilver brand still stands, the corporate entity made a symbolic name change in March signifying a new chapter for the company, setting them up for big things to come in the last half of 2017.
Acquisitions, IPO’s and continued resort consolidation
Another big month for news, April saw the acquisition of LRG by Mad Engine, a leading global licensed-apparel wholesaler for brands such as Marvel, Star Wars, Disney, Nickelodeon and many more.
Surf Expo and Outdoor Retailer parent company Emerald Expositions announced plans to go public, and resort consolidation continued with Aspen Skiing Company swallowing up Intrawest Resorts, which include Steamboat and Stratton Mountain, and then Mammoth Resorts as part of a joint venture with KSL Capital.
The acquisitions trend ran deep in May, especially inside the snowsports industry.
K2 and Ride Snowboards parent company Newell Brands announced it would be acquired by Kohlberg & Company as part of $240 million winter sports brand sale. The deal resulted in a new holding company, chairman and leadership team for the brands.
On the tradeshow front, Emerald Expositions acquired SIA Snow Show, setting up what would soon be a shared experience for 2018.
After announcing its acquisition of skate and streetwear brand LRG in April, Mad Engine followed up that news with its purchase of Neff, a brand rooted in snowboarding lifestyle.
Paying tribute to lost legends
In other news from June, Olukai made an investment in emerging brand Roark Revival.
Nike announced it would undergo a major restructuring, cutting about 2% of its global workforce, or 1,400 employees.
As everyone looked forward to an approaching Olympic year, Dew Tour became sanctioned as a U.S. ski and snowboard Olympic qualifying event for the 2018 Games. The event went off without a hitch in December, and saw key athletes like Chloe Kim qualify for the global event.
On the heels of its restructuring news, Nike announces a $1 billion campus expansion, adding three new buildings totaling a collective 3.2 million square feet to its existing infrastructure. Real estate and construction experts speculated the project is ringing in at the tune of $1 billion.
Changes to the tradeshow space
The first-ever Agenda consumer day was a hit, drawing a crowd of 15k attendees to Long Beach following the traditional industry tradeshow that’s been in place for nearly 15 years. The event marks Agenda’s big shift in 2017 from an endemic, business-to-business audience to a more direct-to-consumer approach, similar to many of the companies in our space.
In other tradeshow news, Outdoor Retailer announces its big move to Denver, following the Utah land dispute over Bears Ears. The move also signified the shows alignment with sister show SIA Snow Show, and we will see the first iteration of what that’s like in the Mile-High city this January.
On the retail front, Google and Walmart (and later Target) partnered up to compete with powerhouse Amazon. The move, which combined the low prices of Walmart and the accessibility of Google, was intended to provide a viable opponent to Amazon's current dominance of the online retail market -- a speculation that has yet to be proven out as 2017 comes to a close.
Even more consolidation
The consolidation of ski resorts continued, with KSL Capital joint venture acquiring Deer Valley Resort. The newly-formed resort group also named Erik Forsell, former CMO of Mammoth Resorts, as its new CMO.
High Cascade and Windells summer camps saw further consolidation, a trend that’s been ongoing since 2014, when High Cascade and Windells joined forces to form a parent company called We Are Camp.
VF Corp announced it would acquire Dickies parent Williamson-Dickie -- one of several acquisitions of the year for VF Corp, and symbolic of the company’s heavier investment into the workwear market.
A 2017 outdoor recreation study indicated that outdoor participation reached 144 million, or 48.8% of the U.S. population. The metric marked an overall increase in outdoor sports participation, year over year.
The industry responds to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey
Due to Hurricane Irma, which caused an estimated $2.8 billion impact on retail, Surf Expo’s September show was called short on safety concerns as weather forecasters stumbled to predict the storm’s exact path.
In the meantime, many companies in our industry including Vans, Ethika and Jetty pulled together to help fellow friends, colleagues and families who were hit by the devastating effects of Irma’s predecessor, Harvey.
In other news, Nike reports even more job cuts -- 490 more, to be exact -- expected before the end of September.
Amazon, the mega-retailer causing serious disruption across consumer spending, announced it would partner with a Taiwanese vendor and supplier to create its own line of athleisure apparel. The vendor apparently also produces apparel for major companies like Gap, Uniqlo and Kohl’s Corp. The move gives Amazon even more firepower to fulfill gaps in the market and indicates an even more significant shift toward direct-to-consumer demand.
After nearly 25 years, the Warped Tour comes to a close, ending an era the iconic traveling music festival established for itself since 1994. At the heart of the tour since its inception, Steve Van Doren reflected on what it means to say goodbye to Warped and how its shaped the iconic footwear brand over the years.
On the heels of the Dickies acquisition, VF Corp scoops up merino wool specialist Icebreaker to add to its ever-growing portfolio.
Burton also unveiled the U.S. Snowboard Team Olympic uniforms, which took a creative spin on the red-white-and-blue colorways we’ve seen in the past.
We sure did end the year with a bang.
Patagonia, joined by a group of conservationist and outdoor industry companies and alliances, filed a suit earlier this month over the Trump administration's decision to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument.
Popular streetwear and skate company HUF announced its sale to Japanese apparel group, TSI. And, perhaps the biggest news of all, longtime rivals Billabong and Quiksilver could be sitting under one parent company soon if a proposal submitted by Quik parent Boardriders Inc. goes through to purchase Billabong.
We’ll have to wait and see what 2018 brings!
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