Unhappy campers? Tents and other gear close to selling out in UK holiday boom

Sports retailer Decathlon says sales of family tents are up more than 70% on pre-Covid levels

Retailers are running out of camping equipment and family tents as the Covid-19 pandemic puts a dampener on foreign trips and Britons search for affordable holiday alternatives.

Sports retailer Decathlon said it had already sold out of all its own-brand camping chairs and expected to run out of its top-of-the-range family tents within the next few weeks.

“We have been surprised how strong performance has been,” said Chris Allen, Decathlon’s head of camping, referring to several weeks of very rainy weather across the UK. “This year has been really strong, we think the strongest ever for the sector.”

He said the pandemic and travel restrictions had accelerated an existing trend towards outdoor pursuits. “People want to get back in touch with nature and enjoy green spaces,” he added.

Sales of family tents, which can accommodate at least four people, were up more than 70% on pre-pandemic levels between April and this week, sales of stoves were up 150% and sales of pan sets have tripled. Sales of double sleeping bags and inflatable bed bases have also grown. Performance was even stronger on last year when many stores were closed.

Sales of camping furniture have also more than tripled compared with 2019 levels and demand for gazebos and other temporary shelters has quadrupled, although interest in these products is partly driven by more people wanting to meet friends and family outdoors in gardens or parks.

Online seller Trail Outdoor said it had experienced a similar uptick – with tent sales up almost 60% between January and June compared with the same period a year before, while its double airbed sales were up more than 100%.

Allen said Decathlon’s suppliers had not been able to keep up with demand and the company was turning to additional brands to help bring in extra stocks but he said there were shortages of camping chairs, gazebos and family tents across the industry.

Decathlon said most buyers had camped before but were adding items to their kit to cater for longer holidays or because they were less likely to eat out at pubs and restaurants during their trip.

Overall sales of camping kit are up more than 70% despite a drop-off in sales of basic camping mats and sleeping bags of the kind used by festivalgoers, as many music events have been cancelled this year.

The rise in equipment sales comes after the government eased planning rules to enable farms and other landowners to host pop-up camping sites for up to 69 days a year.

Th ecamping booking site Pitchup.com said 500 new sites had set up so far this year on top of 90 last summer.

Dan Yates, the founder of Pitchup.com, said bookings for UK destinations were up 233% year on year so far and more than double those of 2019.

“Booking growth has softened a little since late June as Euro 2020 grabbed the nation’s attention and weather has taken a turn for the worse,” he said. “The more favourable weather forecast for the coming days has already resulted in growth [against the same period in 2019] nearly doubling compared with last Tuesday.”

Ellie Sturrock from Loscombe Farm in Dorset said her family had decided to welcome paying campers for the first time this year with three yurts and about 16 pitches for tents. She said that since the weather improved the site was “pretty much booked out.”

“It’s been nice to have a bit of money coming in to supplement the farm,” she said. “We needed to diversify and it’s nice to share the farm with people.

Rachel Leister from Devonshire Hotels which has set up 10 glamping tents at the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire said they were booked up for the entire summer and bookings for up to 50 camping pitches nearby had also taken off in recent days.

“Its been quite a mix of ages, groups of friends and lots of families,” she said.

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