McLEAN, VA (February 16, 1999)-Snowboard sales were strong at both specialty retail and chain stores in December, despite warm temperatures that translated into slow snow-sports retail sales. Overall dollars spent in the industry were down by 2.9 percent, according to the third SIA Topline Retail Audit for the 1998-99 winter season. The third SIA Retail Audit measured retail sales from August 1 through December. Taking a long view, the drop is an improvement over the seven percent decline experienced last year for the same period. In dollars, the industry has retreated about ten percent since December 1996. Total dollars spent this period were $1.22 million versus last year’s $1.26 million.

Snowboard Equipment Up

Despite the warm weather, snowboard equipment sales took off in specialty stores with an increase of fifteen percent in dollars ($84.6 million) over the previous year. At chain stores, sales grew by nineteen percent in dollars ($21.4 million) and ten percent in units. Snowboards were up 30 percent in units and 40 percent in dollars ($41.5 million) in specialty stores. And at chain stores, snowboards experienced a 28 percent increase in dollars ($10 million) and a eleven percent increase in units. The average retail price for snowboards in specialty stores was $292, up from 1997′s $256. In the chains, snowboards were up eleven percent in units and 28 percent in dollars ($10.1 million). The average chain store price of a snowboard was $161.

Snowboard boots in specialty stores increased two percent in dollars ($25.6 million) and 5 percent in units. At chain stores, boots were up ten percent both in dollars ($6.5 million) and units. Snowboard bindings were down six percent in dollars ($17.5 million) and down eight percent in units at the specialty shops. In chain stores, bindings were up thirteen percent in dollars ($5 million) and eleven percent in units. Sales of step-in bindings rose ten percent ($1.3 million) in chain stores, but fell seven percent ($5 million) in specialty stores.

Marc Almeida, store manager of snowboard specialty shop EZ Rider in Burlington, Massachusetts, commented that sales through December were “right in line” with what they were expecting with the temperatures in the Northeast. He further explained that the store experienced a steady increase in equipment sales and had “no steps backwards.”

Apparel Hit Hard

Apparel was the hardest hit segment in the industry. The drop in sales reflected a consumer reluctance to buy winter clothing when the weather was spring-like in much of the country.

“Though apparel sales are off, overall inventory levels are better than last season,” explains SIA’s Associate Research Director, John Packer. “Inventory to sales ratios for apparel are 54 percent this season as compared to 60 percent last season. So, even though apparel sales are slower this season, inventory levels are better.” And slimming inventory levels are not only being experienced in apparel. According to Packer, Alpine ski, snowboard, and accessory inventory levels are all better than seasons past.

What kept the industry afloat during a warm first eighteen days of December was the sale of higher-priced merchandise. In specialty stores, which reesent 74 percent of the business measured in dollars, the average price of an item was $77.59 compared to $69.57 in 1997. The average price of an item in chain stores this year was $40.89 compared to $42.92 last season.

Total sales at the specialty stores reached $909.5 million in dollars, down 2.8 percent. Chain stores fell 3.1 percent to a total of $311.2 million in dollars.

Alpine and Snowboard Apparel

Apparel was down in specialty stores by fourteen percent ($238.3 million) for Alpine and sixteen percent ($34.5 million) for snowboard. In chain stores, apparel was down nine percent ($117 million) for Alpine and fourteen percent ($11.5 million) for snowboard at the chain store level.

“I’ve heard that our apparel moved well in California and in Colorado, but then it fell off fast when they didn’t have snow in the Rockies around Christmas,” said Ray Howell, Phenix Ski and Sports sales and marketing manager North America. “It’s been warm and spotty in New York and New England,” he added. “We’re doing pretty well. I’m not sitting on much inventory.”

Snowboard Apparel

Tops increase nine percent in dollars at chains but fell sixteen percent in units. In specialty stores, tops fell ten percent in dollars and twelve percent in units. Bottoms fell in both units and dollars at chain stores, down 54 percent and 35 percent respectively. And they also declined at the chains, dropping 44 percent in units and 24 percent in dollars.

Alpine Apparel

In individual categories, alpine apparel tops were down fourteen percent in units and thirteen percent in dollars at specialty stores. They were up three percent in units, down seven percent in dollars at chains. All insulated parkas (men’s, women’s, and juniors) declined thirteen percent in units, twelve percent in dollars in specialty stores, and seven percent in units, eleven percent in dollars at chain stores. Shell parkas did well at both specialty and chain stores, up eleven percent in units, .8 percent in dollars at specialty, and up 37 percent in units and nineteen percent in dollars at chain stores. Fleece tops increased twenty percent in dollars and 24 percent in units in chains, and were up one percent in dollars but down two percent in units at specialty stores.

Suits fell twenty percent in units, 25 percent in dollars at specialty stores. In chain stores, suits were down 34 percent in dollars and 36 percent in units. Shell suits were a bright spot, up five percent in units and ten percent in dollars in specialty stores and up four percent in dollars at chain stores; units were down four percent. Bottoms had a fourteen percent drop in dollars and a 21 percent drop in units. In chains, bottoms were down six percent in dollars and down four percent in units.

Alpine and Nordic Equipment

Alpine equipment took a negligible hit in specialty stores, down .6 percent ($311.8 million). In chain stores, alpine equipment dropped nine percent in dollars ($73.6 million). Cross country did well with equipment up .6 percent ($24 million) in specialty and four percent ($11.8 million) in chain stores.

Adult shaped skis continue to march upward. Sales were up ten percent in dollars ($106.3 million) and nine percent in units in specialty stores. In the chains, adult shaped skis were up seven percent in dollars ($21.7 million) and nineteen percent in units.

“The selection of shaped skis has become so diverse that we are now better able to find a ski that matches all the characteristics of the customer. Their level of performance, preferred terrain, their personality,” explains Kelly Knight, store manager of specialty shop Ski Chalet in Arlington, Virginia. “Because there are so many more types of skis available in the shaped variety than there ever were in traditional, it has helped us fine-tune and match skiers’ needs. This has really helped sales,” he added.

Traditional skis continued to fall-down 29 percent in dollars ($11.1 million), and down 47 percent in units at specialty stores. It was worse in the chains with traditional skis down 82 percent in dollars ($475,000) and 86 percent in units.

All alpine skis were up five percent in dollars ($137.6 million), but down three percent in units at specialty stores. At the chains, all alpine skis were down two percent in dollars ($30.2 million) and flat in units. Nordic skis rose eight percent in dollars ($9.8 million) at specialty stores, but fell twenty percent in units. At the chains, Nordic skis were up ten percent in dollars ($3.6 million) and fell slightly in units by three percent. The short ski phenomena continued unabated.

Nearly 20,000 shorts skis were sold in specialty stores, up 176 percent in units and up 192 percent in dollars ($4.9 million). At the chains, short skis were up 197 percent in dollars ($1 million) and 186 percent in units. Alpine boot sales were off four percent in units, two percent in dollars ($110.3 million) in specialty stores. In the chains, boots were down two percent in units and down five percent in dollars ($29 million).

Services

In specialty shops, retailer services (tunings, repairs and rentals) were down 36 percent in dollars ($14.7 million) and 43 percent in units. Equipment rentals slipped twenty percent in dollars ($14.8 million) and 31 percent in units.

Equipment and Apparel Accessories

Overall, accessories showed a five percent increase in dollars to $216.1 million in specialty stores and a five percent increase in dollars ($87.2 million) at chain stores.

Equipment Accessories

At chain stores, goggles, auto racks, and sunglasses all increased in dollars at nine percent, thirteen percent, and fifteen percent respectively. Units were up five percent for goggles and six percent for auto racks. Sunglasses were down nine percent in units. At specialty stores, goggles and auto racks fell in dollars 5.6 percent and 7.9 percent respectively, and sunglasses were up in dollars 1.1 percent. Units for goggles declined 22 percent, auto racks were up two percent and sunglasses slipped slightly by .3 percent.

At chain stores, snowshoes and helmets fell in dollars, with snowshoes falling 29 percent in dollars ($4.6 million) and helmets decreasing 26 percent ($675,857). Snowshoes were down sixteen percent in units. Units sold for helmets fell 26 percent. In specialty shops, snowshoes fell twenty percent in dollars ($4.8 million) and helmets dropped nineteen percent to $6 million in dollars. in units in specialty stores. In the chains, adult shaped skis were up seven percent in dollars ($21.7 million) and nineteen percent in units.

“The selection of shaped skis has become so diverse that we are now better able to find a ski that matches all the characteristics of the customer. Their level of performance, preferred terrain, their personality,” explains Kelly Knight, store manager of specialty shop Ski Chalet in Arlington, Virginia. “Because there are so many more types of skis available in the shaped variety than there ever were in traditional, it has helped us fine-tune and match skiers’ needs. This has really helped sales,” he added.

Traditional skis continued to fall-down 29 percent in dollars ($11.1 million), and down 47 percent in units at specialty stores. It was worse in the chains with traditional skis down 82 percent in dollars ($475,000) and 86 percent in units.

All alpine skis were up five percent in dollars ($137.6 million), but down three percent in units at specialty stores. At the chains, all alpine skis were down two percent in dollars ($30.2 million) and flat in units. Nordic skis rose eight percent in dollars ($9.8 million) at specialty stores, but fell twenty percent in units. At the chains, Nordic skis were up ten percent in dollars ($3.6 million) and fell slightly in units by three percent. The short ski phenomena continued unabated.

Nearly 20,000 shorts skis were sold in specialty stores, up 176 percent in units and up 192 percent in dollars ($4.9 million). At the chains, short skis were up 197 percent in dollars ($1 million) and 186 percent in units. Alpine boot sales were off four percent in units, two percent in dollars ($110.3 million) in specialty stores. In the chains, boots were down two percent in units and down five percent in dollars ($29 million).

Services

In specialty shops, retailer services (tunings, repairs and rentals) were down 36 percent in dollars ($14.7 million) and 43 percent in units. Equipment rentals slipped twenty percent in dollars ($14.8 million) and 31 percent in units.

Equipment and Apparel Accessories

Overall, accessories showed a five percent increase in dollars to $216.1 million in specialty stores and a five percent increase in dollars ($87.2 million) at chain stores.

Equipment Accessories

At chain stores, goggles, auto racks, and sunglasses all increased in dollars at nine percent, thirteen percent, and fifteen percent respectively. Units were up five percent for goggles and six percent for auto racks. Sunglasses were down nine percent in units. At specialty stores, goggles and auto racks fell in dollars 5.6 percent and 7.9 percent respectively, and sunglasses were up in dollars 1.1 percent. Units for goggles declined 22 percent, auto racks were up two percent and sunglasses slipped slightly by .3 percent.

At chain stores, snowshoes and helmets fell in dollars, with snowshoes falling 29 percent in dollars ($4.6 million) and helmets decreasing 26 percent ($675,857). Snowshoes were down sixteen percent in units. Units sold for helmets fell 26 percent. In specialty shops, snowshoes fell twenty percent in dollars ($4.8 million) and helmets dropped nineteen percent to $6 million in dollars. Units sold for snowshoes dropped 39 percent, for helmets, units fell nineteen percent.

According to Jim Spring of Leisure Trends, the research firm that conducts the Retail Audit for SIA, the decline in snowshoe and helmet numbers this period can be attributed in large part to “the lack of snow in much of the country until about December 18″ and the “diminished number of people who went skiing over Christmas.”

Apparel Accessories

At chain stores, underwear and headwear rose 40 percent and fourteen percent in dollars respectively. Turtlenecks dropped 23 percent in dollars and socks dropped 27 percent. Winter boots fell seven percent in dollars. Gloves were up in dollars slightly by .2 percent. In units, underwear surged 44 percent and headwear rose 35 percent. Turtlenecks dropped eighteen percent in units and socks dropped 23 percent. Gloves and winter boots both saw an increase in units sold. Gloves were up eleven percent and winter boots were up ten percent.

At specialty stores, underwear was up 24 percent in dollars, headwear was up 35 percent and socks surged 63 percent. Turtlenecks dropped fifteen percent in dollars. Winter boots and gloves increased in dollars by 38 percent and .8 percent respectively. In units, underwear and headwear increased by twenty percent and 29 percent respectively. Socks were up by 27 percent and winter boots were up by 38 percent. Turtlenecks declined by 45 percent and gloves slipped by two percent.

According to Peter Davis, Director of Sales and Marketing at Turtle Fur Inc., a manufacturer of headwear, the strong numbers for headwear at both the chain and specialty stores “are accurate.” Davis explained that the increase in sales at the retail level provided them with “a brief re-order period.” Overall, his forward-thinking expectations are that “business is going to be up moderately,” and that while the pipeline has been fairly full, “we expect great clean up at the retail level.rs. Units sold for snowshoes dropped 39 percent, for helmets, units fell nineteen percent.

According to Jim Spring of Leisure Trends, the research firm that conducts the Retail Audit for SIA, the decline in snowshoe and helmet numbers this period can be attributed in large part to “the lack of snow in much of the country until about December 18″ and the “diminished number of people who went skiing over Christmas.”

Apparel Accessories

At chain stores, underwear and headwear rose 40 percent and fourteen percent in dollars respectively. Turtlenecks dropped 23 percent in dollars and socks dropped 27 percent. Winter boots fell seven percent in dollars. Gloves were up in dollars slightly by .2 percent. In units, underwear surged 44 percent and headwear rose 35 percent. Turtlenecks dropped eighteen percent in units and socks dropped 23 percent. Gloves and winter boots both saw an increase in units sold. Gloves were up eleven percent and winter boots were up ten percent.

At specialty stores, underwear was up 24 percent in dollars, headwear was up 35 percent and socks surged 63 percent. Turtlenecks dropped fifteen percent in dollars. Winter boots and gloves increased in dollars by 38 percent and .8 percent respectively. In units, underwear and headwear increased by twenty percent and 29 percent respectively. Socks were up by 27 percent and winter boots were up by 38 percent. Turtlenecks declined by 45 percent and gloves slipped by two percent.

According to Peter Davis, Director of Sales and Marketing at Turtle Fur Inc., a manufacturer of headwear, the strong numbers for headwear at both the chain and specialty stores “are accurate.” Davis explained that the increase in sales at the retail level provided them with “a brief re-order period.” Overall, his forward-thinking expectations are that “business is going to be up moderately,” and that while the pipeline has been fairly full, “we expect great clean up at the retail level.