Tangible data: 2020 continues to produce new outdoor enthusiasts


One recurring theme that has been touched on in WON editorials several times over the course of this year has been how one positive thing to come out of 2020 is the huge spike in interest in outdoor pursuits (for obvious reasons). As this year of year comes to a close, hard evidence of that demand is becoming more tangible.

In mid December, Johnson Outdoors announced its lofty sales and earnings for the 2020 fiscal year. This following a fourth quarter which typically is when outdoor recreation companies are ramping down.

Per the announcement: Due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Company experienced increased demand during the final months of fiscal 2020 as consumers continued to look for ways to recreate outdoors. As a result, each of our Fishing, Camping and Watercraft Recreation segments experienced strong demand in the latter half of the current fiscal year, and total Company net sales in the quarter increased 58 percent year over year to $164.7 million.  

Johnson Outdoors is just one of many examples, but it’s a solid one as they’re involved in a wide range of outdoor activities including fishing, camping, watercraft and even diving. Its stable of brands includes Minn Kota, Humminbird, Cannon, Ocean Kayak, Old Town, Eureka! and Jetboil.


“The 2020 fiscal year was like no other year in our history,” said Helen Johnson-Leipold, Chairman and CEO. “We started the year with a very strong first quarter, but the onset of the pandemic and the initial stay-at-home mandates cut short our momentum and significantly impacted our second and third quarters, the heart of our primary selling season. As those mandates eased, we saw demand ramp up and participation grow in fishing, camping and watercraft recreation. This positive late-season momentum resulted in a strong finish to the year,”

Additional key factors in the year-over-year comparison include:

  • Continued demand for new and legacy technologies in Minn Kota and Humminbird drove a 9 percent increase in fishing revenue


  • Strong demand across all product categories drove a 25 percent increase in watercraft recreation sales


  • Camping grew 3 percent due to higher sales in both Jetboil and Eureka!, offset in part by a decrease in military tent sales


  • Pandemic-related global travel restrictions negatively impacted Diving revenue by 20 percent

“Strong demand in fishing, camping and watercraft recreation continued into the fourth quarter, and the challenge has been keeping pace with demand,” added Johnson-Leipold.

Here outside of the Johnson Outdoors boardroom as well the NASDAQ, anyone with an interest in the outdoor industry – and that includes consumers – have felt this spike since late spring. Empty pegs in tackle shops and big box retailers reflected that demand as well as COVID-related issues in the supply chain.

There is no question there’s a huge new batch of outdoor enthusiasts on the water and in the field, and whenever normalcy returns along with the normal suite of non-outdoor recreation options, retaining that new blood will be priority number one.