Millennials are hung up on hammocks. Once typically just for retirees and their country estates, the lounging beds are now appealing to everyone including college students and hard-core outdoor enthusiasts.
Sales of hammocks increased a whopping 30% to $53.8 million for the 12 months ending in March, compared with the year-earlier period, according to market research firm NPD Group Inc., which found that overall sales of the product have doubled since 2014. Stores like L.L. Bean, Moosejaw and Wayfair are climbing on board the trend by marketing new designs in cool materials. Amazon promoted a discounted hammock on its site during its annual Prime Day this month--the item ended up selling out, with a reported 24,000 units sold by afternoon. Retail experts say the sales uptick is led by millennials, who love the hanging contraptions for their ease of use, convenience and portability. With prices starting below $100, they're also affordable for younger consumers. And finally, hammocks also tap into that other all-important buzzword in retail: experience.
"Millennials are looking for products they can share with their friends that they can turn into an experience," explained Matt Powell, sports industry analyst at NPD, noting that many college kids use them around campus for activities like sitting in the quad. "Hammocking is a way of hanging out with your pals—you don't have to be in a deep forest, you can be in a backyard. It's a relatively inexpensive way to spend an afternoon."
Of course, hammocks are nothing new. Around for roughly 1,000 years with Central American origins, the product has had centuries to marinate with manufacturers. Now, brands have modernized hammocks with more lightweight, portable fabric and various iterations like the colors of the Jamaican flag, geared to more relaxed consumers.
Manufacturers are designing their products for everyone, rather than just the seasoned outdoorsman, experts said.
"They're trying to remove the barriers to participation by offering products that make it easy for folks to get out—it's not necessarily super technical, you don't have to rough it anymore," said Mac McKeever, a spokesman at L.L. Bean. The Freeport, Maine-based retailer has seen double-digit sales growth in hammocks in the past 12 months over the 12 months prior. Mr. McKeever noted that L.L. Bean, which gives the item prominent exposure in catalogs and online, has made a point of promoting hammock-centric user-generated content through its social channels because the product is so trendy right now.
Other retailers are also hanging their hopes on hammocks. "Be a swinger," read a hammock email sent to customers of Moosejaw, a Madison Heights, MI-based outdoors industry retailer, in June. The company, which operates an ecommerce site and about a dozen brick and mortar stores, reports that the business is booming. Between March and July, sales of the product were up nearly 100% over 2015, said Eoin Comerford, president and CEO. He noted that a new craze is the tent-hammock hybrid, which is a suspended tent that makes sleeping more comfortable for campers.
"These hammock tents are exploding right now," he said, noting Moosejaw, which offers some 40 different hammock styles already, is prominently adding the product to its inventory.
Ecommerce home furnishings site Wayfair, which owns Joss & Main and DwellStudio, is also capitalizing on the uptick, in a different way. Alex Bowman, a trend forecaster at the Boston-based retailer, said many consumers are bringing their hammocks inside as a new seating option—it's an extension of the trend of bringing other outdoor items, like porch rugs, inside because of their durability.
"The times when you're happiest are when you're living in a hammock outside—this is a cheat to bring that moment of relaxation inside so you can close your eyes and pretend you're outside," said Mr. Bowman. Sales of hammocks at Wayfair are up 140% year-to-date over the year-earlier period as customers gravitate to styles like the cocoon-like egg-chair hammock or one of the site's other 599 iterations. Since hammocks popped up in popularity, Wayfair has been tracking them through more specific promotions.
"Hammocks is not a new category but it is a category that not everyone has—it's a great trending item," said Nancy Go, VP-brand marketing at the 14-year-old company. "As we see things trend, we end up promoting them more."