Even though the weather was more like spring than fall, overall sales of snow-sports products produced a modest four-percent gain from the same period in 1997 (August-November), according to the second SIA Topline Retail Audit of the 1998/99 winter season. The average price of all products at retail jumped nine dollars from last season, which accounted for most of the four-percent increase in total sales. Nearly eleven percent of total sales were generated by shaped skis. Last season, shaped skis sold for 356 dollars a pair. This year the average pair was going for 397 dollars, a 41-dollar increase. Snow-sports specialty shops were up six percent in dollars from last year, while chain store sales were down three percent from last year. The SIA Topline Retail Audit captures more than 500-million dollars in cash-register receipts from 700 retail outlets. The data is extrapolated to generate retail sales activity for the United States snow-sports retail market.

Snow-Sports Specialty Stores Up
Snow-sports specialty store sales increases were driven by snowboard equipment, accessories, and store servicesÐespecially rentals.

Snowboard Equipment
Snowboard equipment as a whole was up eleven percent in units and fifteen percent in dollars. Snowboards rose fourteen percent in units and nineteen percent in dollars. Boots increased seventeen percent in units and sixteen percent in dollars. Step-in bindings increased fifteen percent in units and fourteen percent in dollars. Strap bindings were up one percent in units but up 6.2 percent in dollars.

Alpine Equipment
All alpine equipment was down ten percent in units and virtually flat in dollars. Skis were down in units by five percent but up seven percent in dollars. Shaped skis were responsible for a dollar increase of twenty percent and a sixteen-percent jump in units. Short skis continued to sell well with a 219 percent increase in units and 244 percent increase in dollars. Traditional skis fell 54 percent in units and 39 percent in dollars. Boots were down seven percent in units and two percent in dollars. Junior boot sales remained strong with a 24-percent increase in units and a 37-percent increase in dollars. Bindings and poles suffered with bindings down sixteen percent in units and poles down thirteen percent in dollars.

Nordic Equipment
Nordic equipment rebounded from a slow start early in the season with a four-percent gain in dollars. Skis drove the increase with a 22-percent increase in dollars. Ski units were off ten percent, which says that retailers were able to hold their margins.

Snowboard And Alpine Apparel
Snow-sports apparel was down six percent in units, two percent in dollars. Apparel tops were down three percent in units and dollars. Snowboard tops covered increases of four percent in units, eight percent in dollars. Snowboard bottoms were down 39 percent in units, eighteen percent in dollars. Shell parkas were up sixteen percent in units and up seven percent in dollars. Women1s shell parkas drove the increases with a 37-percent increase in units and a 26 percent boost in dollars. Fleece and vests took off with eleven- and nineteen-percent increases in units respectively. Apparel suits dropped three percent in units and nine percent in dollars. Insulated suits were the culprits as units fell twenty percent and dollars fell 24 percent. Apparel bottoms were off by eight percent in units but were up three percent in dollars. Shell and stretch waist pants drove alpine bottoms.

Equipment and Apparel Accessories
Accessories were up eight percent in units and sixteen percent in dollars. Auto racks (up 46 percent in units), snowshoes (up 103 percent in units), sunglasses (up nine percent in units) and helmets (up eighteen percent in units) showed healthy gains. Goggles were down 21 percent in units, ten percent in dollars. Winter boots increased 24 percent in unitsSocks and underwear stayed warm with 40 percent and 28 percent unit increases respectively.

Services
Services provided by retailers to consumersÐtune-ups, repairs and rentalsÐwere down four percent in units but up a healthy fifteen percent in dollars. Equipment rentals drove the service increases with units up 32 percent and dollars up 45 percent.

Chain Stores Remain Slow
Chain store sales were down four percent in units and dollars. Nordic and snowboard equipment fared well as did shell parkas, vests, fleece, and stretch pants. But overall apparel decreased by three percent in units and eight percent in dollars. In accessories, units were down five percent and dollars were down two percent.

Snowboard Equipment
All snowboard equipment was down one percent in units but up seven percent in dollars. Snowboard units were down twelve percent and flat in dollars. Boots were down one percent in units but up four percent in dollars. Bindings were up twenty percent in units, 33 percent in dollars. Step-ins led the way with a 25-percent increase in units and a 32-percent increase in dollars.

Alpine Equipment
Alpine equipment was up one percent in units and down four percent in dollars at chain stores. Skis were up eight percent in units but flat in dollars. Shaped skis experienced strong gains of 32 percent in units and nine percent in dollars. Short skis stormed to a 270-percent increase in units and a 323-percent increase in dollars. Traditional skis were off 88 percent in units and 84 percent in dollars. Boots were up six percent in units but down three percent in dollars. Poles were down nine percent in units and 26 percent in dollars. Bindings were down in units (four percent) and down in dollars (eleven percent).

Nordic Equipment
Nordic equipment in chain stores was up five percent in units and eight percent in dollars. Bindings were down thirteen percent in dollars. Skis (up seven percent), poles (up 49 percent) and boots (up ten percent) also showed healthy dollar increases.

Snowboard And Alpine Apparel
Snow-sports apparel was down three percent in units and eight percent in dollars. Snowboard apparel was off 36 percent in units and thirteen percent in dollars. Bottoms were down 52 percent in units, 36 percent in dollars. Snowboard tops decreased in units by fifteen percent but were up nine percent in dollars. Apparel tops were up five percent in units but dollars were down six percent. Women1s shell parkas increased 35 percent in units and 21 percent in dollars. Fleece had a 39-percent increase in units, 34-percent increase in dollars. Apparel bottoms were down three percent in units and dollars. Bright spots for bottoms were shell waist (up 24 percent in units), fleece (up four percent in units) and stretch waist pants (up 271 percent in units).

Equipment And Apparel Accessories
All accessories were down five percent in units and two percent in dollars. Goggles, auto racks and helmets were bright spots. Goggles were up five percent in units, twelve percent in dollars; auto racks increased six percent in units, fourteen percent in dollars, and helmets were up 53 percent in units, 60 percent in dollars. Snowshoes dropped 41 percent in units and 49 percent in dollars.

Units Down, Dollars Up
“Down in units up in dollars is a trend that is continuing,” commented Tim Kohl, president of Research Dynamics, a snow-sports equipment manufacturer. “How long this trend continues is up in the air,” he added. As every snow-sports professional knows, December through February are vital months for the industry, with December having the heaviest activity. For the past three consecutive seasons, over 35 percent of the industry1s total retail sales took place that month. The recent upswing in current weather conditions is beginning to have a positive effect on sales. The third SIA Retail Audit, to be released in early February, will include December figures. “November was disappointing and sales were down about ten percent,” shared Mitch Osur, president of Snow Country Ski Shop, a specialty store in Rochester, New York. “The first two weeks of December were slow, but I gained it back in the last two weeks of December. However, sales were still down two percent from last year. Business has increased since it1s gotten colder.” Out West, Bob Gleason, president of Boot Doctors in Telluride, Colorado and Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico reported a positive December for both stores. “The Telluride store is doing over double what it was last year. Taos is about even, off one percent.”be released in early February, will include December figures. “November was disappointing and sales were down about ten percent,” shared Mitch Osur, president of Snow Country Ski Shop, a specialty store in Rochester, New York. “The first two weeks of December were slow, but I gained it back in the last two weeks of December. However, sales were still down two percent from last year. Business has increased since it1s gotten colder.” Out West, Bob Gleason, president of Boot Doctors in Telluride, Colorado and Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico reported a positive December for both stores. “The Telluride store is doing over double what it was last year. Taos is about even, off one percent.”