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Exploring the outdoors: A Fresh Perspective on Retail

3min read

Charlotte Dawson

7th May 2024

Welcome to the Unturned Stone journal - a place where we will share insights and innovation with a particular focus on retail.

Our monthly insights will cover everything from customer attitudes and brand innovation to retail strategy and success stories.

In this, our first post, we set our sights on the dynamic Outdoor market - a sector which has seen significant change in recent months.

According to the latest HighSnobiety report, 'The New Outdoors' a wave of 'cultural pioneers' are reshaping their relationship with nature, embracing the outdoors in innovative and diverse ways, and reaping its myriad benefits.

The fusion of fashion and outdoor pursuits has become and influential force in contemporary culture and as the definition of 'the outdoors' expands, retailers must assert a confident authority in this sector to cater to the evolving needs and desires of consumers.

Interestingly, the report reveals that only a mere 9 percent of respondents engage in high-performance outdoor activities. Instead, there's a noticeable trend towards utilising nature as a means to enhance overall well-being, reflecting a broader cultural shift.

Here at Unturned Stone, we took a look at the current state of outdoor retail, with an outdoor specific retail safari in London.

Unturned Stone offers bespoke retail safaris of the world's best hospitality and retail destinations.

Within this market, we encountered a spectrum of retail experiences, ranging from the traditional to the luxury. Mulit-brand stores which were once emblematic of the classic outdoor retail experience, now face the challenge of adapting to modern demands. The removal of experiential elements due to financial and environmental demands underscores a shift towards maximizing retail space, yet risks diminishing the experiential allure of the store.

These multi-brand stores often fall short in providing adequate information and guidance to customers, leaving them to navigate vast product offerings with minimal assistance. Moreover, the limited selection and placement of women's apparel underscore persistent gender biases in outdoor retail spaces.

Ski and ski boot categories emerge as overlooked niches within multi-brand stores, reflecting a missed opportunity to cater to enthusiasts in this specialized field.

Conversely, the luxury brands in this sector, (like the recently renovated Arc'Teryx store in Covent Garden), distinguish themselves through innovative offerings such as repair stations and engaging digital content, fostering a sense of community and brand loyalty.

The disparity between North Face's Covent Garden and Regent Street locations offers intriguing insights into the varying levels of retail sophistication. While the former mirrors the outdated model of minimal customer engagement, the latter shines with its immersive visual merchandising, interactive displays, and informative product categorization.

Ultimately, multi-brand retailers must strive to amplify their brand voices and assert authority within the outdoor retail landscape. By embracing innovation, fostering community, and prioritizing customer experience, they can navigate the evolving terrain of outdoor retail with confidence and agility.

Future Insights

What can brands do in this space to align with consumer passions?

Create inclusive experiences: Outdoors comms must now go beyond outmoded and inaccurate representations of the sector's fanbase (white, male, affluent and able-bodied) to make a mark with modern audiences.

Use Outreach Programmes: Focused on opening up access to the outdoors by supporting previously underserved groups, smart players are putting down roots within communities. Respond to the consumer desire for brands to become facilitators and educators with inclusivity-dedicated scholarships or product developed in tandem with community leaders

Repair Services: With a greater number of consumers more eager to experience the great outdoors, providing 'occasional consumers' with the option to repair and re-use kit will be advantageous.

Repair services have the benefit of giving products the chance at an extended life and therefore becoming more sustainable

Woo the Urbanites: Brands looking to appeal to younger, urban consumers more likely to partake in the micro-outdoors than scale mountain ranges, should look beyond the obvious influencer contender and instead tap under-the-radar 'hike beast' godheads to maximise credibility.

Join us on this journey as we continue to uncover the untapped potential and emerging trends within the retail sphere. Together, let's turn stones into stepping stones towards a more vibrant and inclusive retail future.

And if you would like to learn more about retail innovation - please do head over to - where you can find a number of self-serve safaris across the world.

Headshot of Charlotte Dawson

Charlotte Dawson

Research Director

Charlotte has extensive experience in leading research and insight projects for major brands across disciplines and sectors.

Central to this is a strong understanding and passion for people, their ever- changing needs, and attitudes and how to shape, make and communicate brand experiences which connect with people authentically. Using mixed methodology and a variety of research tools, Charlotte works to create compelling narratives from brief to delivery, informed by experience and delivered with clarity. Her client roster includes Huawei, Sky and Nike.

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