McLEAN, VA (Jan. 7, 2000) — La Nina exacted her vengeance on retailers in November after a robust start to the winter by rolling unseasonably warm¿and snowless¿weather across the continent. As a result, shoppers stayed away from retail outlets and sales of snow sports gear fell 10.7 percent for the August 1 to November 30, 1999 period, according to the second SIA Topline Retail Audit of the winter.

“You can blame the weather,” said SIA President David Ingemie. “The warm weather over much of the country kept traffic down. But November isn’t the entire season. We’re hearing that December and holiday sales were some of the best in years.”

Indeed, reports from the field indicate a bad November¿great December scenario is playing out. “Our October was good. Our November was terrible. Our December was the best we’ve ever had,” said Mark Becker, owner of Trollhaugen Ski Shop, Dresser, Wis. “It was unusually warm in November. Golf courses were still open. Resorts that traditionally open around November 4 never opened until December. What happened was people didn’t think about skiing in November, then in December, when it got cold, they all rushed in. So the dollars that weren’t spent in November were shifted to December.”

Both specialty stores and chain stores showed drops in the winter’s second reporting period compared to last season. All sales at specialty stores were down 10.3 percent and all sales at the chains were down 11.1 percent.

“Given the situation with the warm weather, we moved a decent amount of merchandise,” said Kenrick Fischer, assistant manager of Any Mountain Ltd., Corte Madera, Calif. “Last year we had lines at the cash registers, but this year that hasn’t happened. People are looking for snow, then they’ll come in and buy.”

Snow Sports Specialty Shops Suffer:All equipment sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops drooped 9.5 percent in dollars while apparel was off 7.7 percent and accessories were off 15.7 percent compared to last year.

Alpine Equipment¿All alpine equipment fell 10.4 percent with skis off 4.8 percent and boots down 16 percentSnowboard Equipment¿Snowboard equipment fell 3.4 percent with boots up 3.4 percent but boards down 6.3 percent.Apparel¿Snowboard outerwear showed a healthy 11.5 percent increase.Equipment and apparel accessories¿Equipment accessories were down 7.7 percent but helmets showed an 11.6 percent increase and snowshoes were up 7.2 percent. All apparel accessories were down 22.1 percent as every category showed a loss.

“September and October were real storing for us, particularly leasing and families getting ready to go,” said Greg Reilly of Darien Sport Shop, Darien Conn. “We’re seeing a number of parents with young children coming in. They took some time off to have kids, now they’re coming back. November was down, but December was up 10 percent over last year. We’re going in the right direction.”

Chain stores decline:All equipment at chain stores showed a 1.2 increase while all apparel was down .4 percent. Accessories suffered the most, falling 28.3 percent.

Alpine Equipment¿lpine equipment had a 10 percent drop as a category but skis went the other way with an 18.2 percent increaseSnowboard equipment¿Snowboard gear displayed a 55.1 percent increase with boards up 47.6 percent and boots topping out with a 120.6 percent increase.Apparel¿Women’s jackets showed strength with insulated parkas up 76.8 percent and shell parkas up 27.1 percent. Snowboard apparel was down 19.9 percent.Equipment and apparel accessories¿Equipment accessories were down 46.9 percent, but helmets showed a 193 percent boost. Apparel accessories were down 20 percent but snow boots were up 72 percent.

“We’re pretty close to normal (in sales volume),” said Sands Payne, manager of A Racer’s Edge, Breckenridge, Colo. “It was dismal in November, but our December and Christmas have been pretty good. It’s all weather related.”

Jimm Spring, who compiles the SIA Retail Audit through his Leisure Trends Group research company, foresees strong reordering possibilities in the following categories: short skis, junior boots, junior insulated parkas, junior shell parkas, vets and fleece waist pants.

The SIA Retail Audit captures cash register receipts from more than 700 retail outlets. The data is extrapolated to generate retail sales activity for the U.S. snow sports retail market. The complete report is available from the SIA sales department, (703) 556-9020.