An early season retail audit of 376 shops showed an increase of 6.1% in ski and snowboard sales for September, according to the SIA Retail Audit. This was down from a previous retail audit with 277 stores, but still well above the reported 2.4% drop in sales for general retail. Retail sales were stronger in the east and south. California reported the weakest sales.

In talking with store owners and managers, the observations were that sales were coming back better and more quickly than anticipated. The reports were generated for SIA by Leisure Trends. Regular retail audits will begin in December and will include a total of 900 storefronts.

As a result of the recent retail audit, SIA contacted various storefronts to get their outlook for the upcoming season. Peg Reilly, owner of the Alpine Shop in Burlington VT, says her retail sales this fall have been “very encouraging”. “Of course, we had a dismal weekend after the tragic events of September 11th, but even after a very scary time we made our goals for the month. October is chugging right along as well. I think this is because people are turning towards family activities, like snow sports.”

Reilly says that as for the future, she is going ahead with “cautious optimism.” “I’ll be looking at things with a cautious eye,” she says. “I’m not looking at my buying plan this year as if the world were normal. I might end up buying less than I normally would; especially because for many manufacturers like Columbia and the North Face, I’ll have to make decisions by early December before I can really see how things are looking for the year ahead.”

Reilly does know this, though: “I’m definitely going to attend the Vegas show. I’m not going to let events like this make me deviate from my plans; It’s not going to keep me from doing business.”

Chad Ripplinger, store manager for Round House Ski and Sports in Bozeman, MT, says his sales have been right around average and that the terrorist attacks have not affected his business in any way.

“Where we’re located, in a resort and college town, sales don’t start to pick up until the end of this month. We’re just starting to get our first look and things seem to be pretty normal. We’re not expecting a downturn at all – people are already excited about skiing since we’ve gotten about two feet of snow in the mountains already.” Ripplinger says his buying plans for the year will probably not change in light of the attacks or the war on terrorism. “We’ll watch it closely and make sure not to overbuy, but generally I think we’ll follow our original plans.” Will he let terrorism scare him away from Vegas? He laughs and says, “No way. We’re definitely going.”

Alan Davis, president of Princeton Sports in Maryland, reported that his pre-season sale/swap was “the second best in 10 years.”