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The NPD Group: Consumers May Favor Road Trips This Summer

U.S. consumers are showing that social distancing measures and air travel restrictions are unlikely to spoil their summer vacation. According to The NPD Group, key camping, RV and road trip essentials are seeing double- and triple-digit growth, as national parks and other parts of the country begin to reopen. 

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Lower fuel prices at the pump may also be providing a greater incentive for consumers to hit the road; the average price per gallon has declined 30 cents year-to-date through April, according to NPD’s Motor Fuels Index.

“Historically low gas prices combined with concerns of getting on an airplane and travel plan changes are fueling a big uptick for items that consumers purchase to prep their cars and recreational vehicles for road trips,” said Nathan Shipley, NPD’s automotive analyst. “Both existing consumers and new entrants are making investments that I suspect will drive longer-term engagement and gain more mileage for the aftermarket beyond this summer travel season.”

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Findings from the 2020 North American Camping Report fielded by Kampgrounds of America in late April show that travel limitations and overall caution due to the COVID-19 crisis is drawing more campers and first-time campers to the activity. NPD retail sales data ties into this trend, as camping equipment sales reached a turning point in April and ramped up in the last two weeks of the month. In the two weeks ending May 2, sales grew for camping basics including recreation tents (+30%), hammocks (+103%), camp sets (+119%), and campfire equipment (+42%), as well as grills (+74%), smokers (+94%) and fuel (+23%). Also seeing growth were accessories such as portable power kits (+87%), bike trailers/joggers (+133%) and hanging hitch racks (+51%). 

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Tools to equip the RV also saw increases in the latter half of April, including utensils (+36%), pots and pans (+22%) and camp toiletries (+24%). For the full month of April, sales grew for car/RV necessities including hitches (+33%), portable air compressors (+27%), portable/roadside air tanks (+46%) and RV antifreeze/coolant (+25%). RV travel is poised to be a particularly viable vacation option this year as the 2020 THOR North American RV Consumer Survey Report found that 79% of consumers plan to use their RV the same amount (40%) or more (39%) this year. According to the survey, the opening of campgrounds is the most important factor in determining whether an RV trip will be taken this year, followed by a reduction in the COVID-19 spread. 

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“Cabin fever has set in big time, as the lockdown and work-from-home lifestyle continues to be followed by much of the nation. Families are looking for a safe escape to save their summer vacation. As a result, there’s an uptick in consumers gearing up for outdoor activities and road trips, whether local or more long distance,” said Matt Powell, NPD’s sports industry advisor. “NPD data from other industries shows sales increases for U.S. travel books, road maps and atlases, and outdoor toys. There’s a sweeping trend at play here; from the backyard to the campground, consumers are seeking refuge in the outdoors.”

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