Outdoor industry consolidation

After attending the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in August ’12, I posted one of my first blogs that suggested that there would be consolidation in the near future in the stand up paddleboard (SUP) category. There were many telltale signs that consolidation was on the horizon; limited barriers to entry, little product differentiation about brands, product in multiple distribution channels, ranging from specialty retailers to value channel players like Costco.

While I don’t usually like to toot my own horn, I’m proud to note that I got this trend right. Just last week, one of the leading brands, Surftech, was acquired by an investment company out of Thailand. Another competitor, Boardworks, was also recently acquired. http://www.sportsonesource.com/news/spec/spec_article.asp?section=8&Prod=2&id=54278  More noticeable has been the reduction in the number of SUP brands at trade shows and in the marketplace.

So what can we learn from this dynamic? First, the importance of differentiation, both product and brand, is critical for any company to survive in  these consumer segments. Second, it’s important for any company to anticipate industry shifts and react before they happen. Lastly, when the ground shifts beneath a company, understanding what your brand stands for and how it can evolve will help determine whether a brand can survive such a shakeout.

While I know I didn’t predict Apple’s turnaround or predicted the decline of the Walkman but there are always lessons to be learned and patterns to recognize for the future.

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