Market Intelligence France: hiking and trekking - all systems a go!

Monday, June 25, 2018

By Emmanuel Gravaud, Outdoor Experts

The number of avid hikers in France continues to grow, and the outdoor footwear market remains strong. Here are the key market figures you need to know.

The hiking market continues to grow at the same pace as a long multi-day trek: slowly but surely. Along with biking and skiing, hiking remains one the three key pillars of the outdoor sports market in France. The number of hikers is increasing a slow but steady pace. For the FFRandonnée (French Hiking Federation), growth ranges from 2.5% to 3% per year.

By using a broad definition for hiking, from leisurely walks through the forest to the Annapurna circuit, there are 15 million hikers in France according to the 2016 BVA Union/Sports Ministry figures, and 18 million according to a 2014 FFRandonnée/Sportlab survey. More significant for the market, the number of truly avid hikers ranges from 5.5 million according to BVA to 6.5 million according to Sportlab. For both, France has approximately 1.1 million hikers who venture on at least one  "multi-day hike" per year. This core group of 1.5 million hikers uses guidebooks and are obviously very avid hikers.

Over the last five years, from 1 million (Sportlab) to 2.6 million (BVA) Nordic walkers have entered the fray.

The study conducted by France's Ministry of Sports indicates that 73% of hikers in France are over 35 years old, 27% are retirees, and 52% are women. However, we often forget that the avid hiker also participates in several other outdoor sports (3.7 on average): 26% road bike, 21% mountain bike, and 15% alpine ski, 10% snowshoe, 8% Nordic walk, and 4% trail run. The hiker in France is a multi-sport enthusiast and therefore purchases all different types of gear.

The footwear market provides the key baseline figure. “In 2016, the hiking footwear market in France represents 237€ million in sell-out revenues for approximately 5 million pairs of shoes sold,” explains David Richard, sports market analyst for NPD. “Hiking is in 3rd place behind the leisure and running markets. The average price for a pair of hiking boots or shoes in France is 48€, which is higher than the average price for a pair of athletic shoes. The category grew 15% in 2016, due in large part to increased sales and a higher average price.” These figures do not include trail running, which NPD places in the running category. However, in a market trending towards low-top footwear, we observe that an significant percentage of trail running shoes are used for hiking and Nordic walking. This strengthens the position of trail running brands in the Top 5 of the “outdoor retail” panel, which places Salomon in the lead, ahead of Merrell, Asics, Columbia, and Adidas. The leading hiking-specific brands, Meindl and Lowa, are in sixth and seventh place respectively.

When all systems are a go, the challenge for most key stakeholders is to give hiking a much more dynamic, youthful image. Clothing and footwear brands are hard at work. Through its Hike+ Out-Path range, Salomon now targets, “a younger, multi-sport customer.” A modern iteration of the X-Hiking range. Several brands, including Millet, are busy designing high-end technical products for the “fast-hiking” enthusiast, a segment that at present is a bit overshadowed by trail running and needs more work on the marketing side of the equation.

This article is a condensed translated version of an article originally published in French in the September 2017 issue of Outdoor Experts.

Outdoor Experts is one of France's premier trade magazines for the outdoor industry in France.

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