Gauging the growth of hunting accessory sales

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
For most dealers, hunting accessory sales haven’t hurt or helped as they’ve mostly held steady to prior years in comparison to accessory sales on ATV/UTVs as a whole.
The lack of growth in hunting accessory sales is reflecting the willingness — or lack thereof — to spend discretionary income on outdoor activities in general. The Outdoor Industry Association reported in May that overall sales are down year-to-date.
A national dealer survey of 150 dealers conducted annually for Powersports Business revealed that almost 60 percent of respondents said their hunting accessory sales are the same as last year when compared to their overall accessory sales for ATV/UTVs.
Nearly a third of respondents said their hunting accessory sales are worse than their overall ATV/UTV accessory sales so far this year.
Experiencing the downturn in hunting accessory sales is Thornton’s Motorcycle Sales in Versailles, Ind. Owner John Thornton says their sales most likely went down because more consumers are buying used vehicles.
“Instead of spending $400-$500 on a unit, now you’re lucky if you sell a unit,” he said. “We’re still in the black at least. I hope I can get through to the end of the year that way, but I’m not sure.”
It’s not just hunting accessories, however, says Scott Jump, parts manager at Thornton’s Motorcycle Sales. “ATV accessories have dropped off all across the board.”
A mere 5 percent of respondents said their dealership’s hunting accessory sales are better than their overall PG&A sales.
Among the few dealerships that have sold more hunting accessories than overall ATV/UTV accessories is Hawkeye Motorworks in Davenport, Iowa. Owner Joel Reno says this isn’t usually the case for the dealership.
“It’s unique this year,” he said. “We did some hunting displays that could have helped. (Our) overall accessories are close, but they’re down.”
Of the hunting accessories that are selling well are storage trunks, says Reno. The same is true at Thornton’s Motorcycle Sales. Jump notes most people are buying the soft camo bags.
“What sells the most on ATV accessories is either winches or the storage boxes that mount to the rear rack,” he said. “Those are the big sellers for anything that has to do with hunting.”

Outdoor sales
The less than ideal hunting accessory sales numbers have continued since fall. During the last prime hunting season in November, manufacturers and dealers were seeing declining numbers for both new unit and PG&A sales.
The Outdoor Industry Association reported a 12 percent decline in November from the prior year period. Unfortunately, the declining numbers have not improved.
The association released the retail sales for all core outdoor stores combined (chain, Internet and specialty) declined 7 percent in May compared to the same month last year, according to the Outdoor Industry Association Outdoor Topline Report, produced for the association by the Leisure Trends Group.
Sales for the first five months of the year aren’t as poor though. They totaled $1.8 billion, which is down 5 percent from the same period in 2008.
Online sales are showing more positive numbers than the retail stores, but drastic changes in sales month-to-month make end-of-year sales numbers extremely difficult to forecast.
In January, Internet sales were up 35 percent, but they were down 9 percent in February. Sales shot the other way again in March when they were up 14 percent, but it didn’t last long as they were down in April, by 17 percent. May brought it back up 5 percent, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

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