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Retail

UK staycation boom lifts sales of camping gear


Forget draughty tents and troublesome groundsheets. A new wave of first-time campers are pimping their pitches with portable firepits and comfy airbeds as camping enjoys a revival in tandem with the UK staycation boom.

Despite doom and gloom on much of the high street and the cancellation of the music festival season, retailers say shoppers have been snapping up tents, sleeping bags and cooking equipment, with many camping staples selling out.

The UK’s largest retailer, Tesco, said sales of camping equipment remained strong despite people being unable to go to festivals. “Camping chairs are by far the most popular item, with sales well ahead of this time last year, while tents and airbeds have steadily increased in popularity over the past few weeks and ponchos and inflatable pillows also seeing strong growth,” a spokesman said.

At Halfords, sales of tent pegs are up by 45%, airbeds by 130%, gas stoves by 300%, cool boxes by 180% and camping chairs by 120% since lockdown measures were lifted in England in early July. Roofbox sales have soared by 165% and bike racks are selling at a record rate, suggesting cars and bikes will be put to more use this summer. Even sales of leisure batteries – used in caravans, motorhomes and boats – are up by 36% year on year.

“As we head into peak holiday season we’ve seen demand surge for everything from rooftop boxes to camping chairs as customers ensure they can take everything they need with them for their touring and camping staycations this summer,” said David Howells, of Halfords. “We have also seen extraordinary sales of bike racks, suggesting that UK consumers plan to continue their newfound fondness of cycling whilst on holiday.”

John Lewis said camping equipment sales for the period from February to July were up by 58% compared with last year, with tent sales up by 34%. Sales of firepits have more than tripled and most models have sold out.

The independent price comparison service PriceSpy reported that sales of tents were up 126%, sleeping mats 86%, sleeping bags 25% and thermos flasks 49% between June and July.

‘We’ve booked the campsite but still have no tent’

Among readers who responded to a callout by the Guardian was 48-year-old Kathryn, whose first-time camping plans didn’t get very far. “On Saturday night, my husband and I, who are seasoned long-haul travellers, made an impulsive decision to spend the best part of £1,000 on everything our little family would need to camp,” she said. “We’re both police detectives, so we spent hours interviewing friends and family, and even had a spreadsheet.

“We ordered everything from the tent to the spare pegs, the airbeds to the camping stove, the head torches to the she-wee, the sleeping bags to the rubber mallets.”

The family booked a campsite for the upcoming bank holiday and awaited their order. But on Tuesday they received an email from the store saying one item was missing – the tent.

“It was totally frustrating, but really funny,” she said. “Everywhere else is sold out, I think due to the demand from coronavirus. We’ve already booked the campsite but still have no tent. I’m so cross I’m going to return all 32 of the other items.”

Ellen, 23, a care home administrator, recently went on her first camping trip with her boyfriend, and said they had “fallen in love” with camping.

“We decided to take the plunge and go, as the idea of a foreign holiday was out of the picture and having spent most of lockdown apart we wanted to have a weekend away together,” she said.

For a couple who “love an overseas adventure and a bit of luxury,” they have found an unlikely passion and have already rebooked for five weeks’ time.

“We decided a three-night trip would be a good starting point,” she said. “We also managed to pick the hottest weekend of the year, which apart from it being a bit sweaty in the tent was amazing. We felt like we had all the gear and no idea but by the end we felt like pros.”

A spokesman for the Camping and Caravanning Club, which represents 1,400 campsites across the UK, said recruitment of new members was up 55% during one week in July compared with the same time last year.

Rebecca Bebbington, from the money saving website NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, advises new campers to borrow or buy second-hand items rather than shelling out on new ones, and to camp out of season where possible. “Thousands of families are looking at how they can salvage summer fun without breaking the bank” she commented. “But it’s surprisingly easy for costs to spiral.”



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