Ski and Snowboard Retail Market Shows Signs of Rebound

McLean, VA – Sales of ski and snowboard equipment, apparel and accessories reached $2.7 billion in February with a 3% gain in dollars sold compared with August through February last season, according to numbers released by SnowSports Industries America (SIA) this week. According to the data, the number of units sold has declined across the market this season as sales of carryover items and unit sales in some specific categories like fleece and sweaters have diminished. Warmer weather in states north of the Mason-Dixon Line, less snow in the Rockies and wetter and colder weather in the south have contributed to shifting sales patterns this season.nReduction in carryover sales coupled with more purchases of current season model equipment and apparel kept dollar sales in the green even as the number of units sold declined 3% overall. Specialty shops enjoyed higher margins and saw significant declines in inventory through February, resulting in improved cash flow. Significant declines in the Western and Northeastern regions’ sales, particularly in snowboard equipment sold resulted in flat dollar sales.

Weather patterns typical for El Niño conditions drove sales in a colder and wetter Southern U.S. region, but hampered sales in the Rockies and in the warmer-than-average Northwest. Weather will continue to drive sales as late season snow has returned to the atypically dry Rockies and the results of record snow in the south and Mid-Atlantic are completely realized in the market.

Not just for snowboards anymore, rocker — also known as reverse camber skis — have increased in sales from 2,697 pairs sold in 2008-09 to 6,967 sold through January 2009-10. Rocker snowboard sales have doubled since last season from 20,070 to 43,772 boards sold.

Snowboard equipment sales have suffered with overall declines of 7% in units and 4% in dollars, coupled with increases in carryover sales while most current season snowboard equipment sales have declined – except for rocker boards.

Sales of Alpine Touring/Randonée skis designed for the backcountry are up 48% in units and 49% in dollars sold. High performance Alpine Boot sales are up 17% in units and 21% in dollars sold.

In the accessories category, ski and snowboard helmets enjoyed record sales with more than 1.1 million units sold through February this season. Snowshoe sales are up 7% in dollars with 117,887 units sold in snow sports shops.

For apparel, Alpine Tops are up 4% in dollars sold, compared to an 8% decrease in dollars sold for snowboard apparel tops. Sales of Snowboard Apparel as a whole are down 6% in units and 5% in dollars sold. Snowboard apparel made for kids is down about 19% in units overall. Units sales in fleece and sweaters are down 9% in units, a decline of 221,966 units and retailers have sold 51,960 fewer sweaters this season.

Looking at various sales channels, business in ski and snowboard specialty shops totaled $1.6 billion for the period, down 3% in units and up 3% in dollars. Alpine ski equipment sales increased 5% in dollars in specialty shops on strong sales of fat skis (>80mm waist width), high performance alpine boots, and high end bindings (DIN 12+). Carryover unit sales of alpine equipment fell 17% for skis and 11% for boots.

Snowboard equipment continued to decline in February with unit sales down 8% and dollars sold down 6%. Many snowboard buyers are still looking for bargains and snowboard carryover sales have increased 23% in units and 25% in dollars. In fact, snowboard and telemark were the only equipment categories that have brought in fewer dollars this season compared to last season.

Increases in dollars sold coupled with decreased units sales indicate some scarcity in the marketplace and higher tolerance for bigger price tags. Inventories are down 6% in specialty shops overall and down 13% in the equipment category through February.

Retail prices for snow sports gear have increased about 11% overall in specialty stores, driving better margins (1.9% growth) and ensuring better cash flow for specialty retailers throughout the season.

The Internet sales channel totaled $546 million for the period, with unit sales flat and an increase of 9% in dollars. This season, the Internet channel is not the place to go for low end snow sports gear at rock bottom prices. Average prices for equipment, apparel and accessories are closer to even with brick and mortar specialty stores and far higher than chain store average prices.

Overall, online sales are leveling off after three seasons of hyperactive growth. Equipment sales increased most with 9% growth in units sold and 13% growth in dollars sold. The snowboard equipment category realized its only sales gain in the Internet channel. Snowboard equipment sales increased 16.5% in unit sales and 18.5% in dollar sales through February. Internet sales include sales through “clicks only” establishments that have no brick and mortar shop for customers to visit as well as online sales in shops with a brick and mortar location through a commerce enabled website for their customers. Many of the sales reported come from brick and mortar establishments that are reaching customers online and in the shop.

Chain store sales reached $523 million, down 5% in units and down 1% in dollars. Many chains are carrying less equipment this season and that is clearly reflected in the 19% decline in units sold and 14% decrease in dollars sold. Alpine sales are off 17% in units, Nordic equipment unit sales are off by a whopping 30%, and snowboard equipment sales are down 20% in units sold in chain stores this season. In fact, 63% of skis and 55% of snowboards sold were carryover sales meaning that they were sold below average retail cost. Chain stores sell far less equipment than specialty or online sales channels. In fact, chain stores sold fewer than 16% of all skis sold so far this season.

Even the traditionally strong apparel sales in chain stores have fallen off this season with declines of 6% in units and 1% in dollars. Accessories like hats, helmets, goggles, and wax account for about 40% of all snow sports related sales in chain stores. Accessories sales have declined 3% in units but people are spending about 5% more dollars on them through February this season. Helmets are leading the way in the accessories category with increases of 30% in units sold and 31% in dollars sold.

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