McLEAN, VA (December 19, 2000) — The first retail sales report of the winter season adds to the general optimism emanating from the snow sports industry. Early snow in much of the nation, cold weather that allows snowmaking, good retail traffic and reports of positive sales in November all contribute to the buzz. Winter 2000-01 is going to be a good year for snow sports.

“The optimism is not misguided,” said Jim Spring of Leisure Trends Group, the research firm that prepares the annual Retail Audit for SnowSports Industries America. SIA is the non-profit industry trade group that represents manufacturers and distributors of snow sports products. “While the cooperation of the weather is a must, the market for skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing is just too big,” Spring continued. “The sports are right for the times. Resorts are aggressively making the sports more affordable and bookings at destination resorts are reported up for this winter. A good December at retail (sales of equipment and apparel) will sustain the optimism.”

“We were generally pleased with sales August through October,” said Bill Linkenheimer, hardgoods buyer at Willi’s Ski Shop, Pittsburgh. “There’s an excitement among customers. Our local ski area introduced a $299 season pass last spring, and it has impacted our store. A lot of people are coming in with their pass, saying this is the first time they’ve bought one and they want good equipment.”

Sales at all stores (specialty ski and snowboard shops and chain stores) were up 1.7 percent for the first part of the season compared to the August-October period of 1999. In dollars, that translates to $297 million in sales so far this year compared to $292 million in 1999 and $275 million in 1998. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories for the period. This is the first of six reports that will look at sales through March 31, 2001, the end of the winter season.

“Our preseason sale was fabulous,” said Mike White, general manager of Hoigaard’s in Minneapolis, Minn. “The great news this year is that the ground is white. The season is progressing very strongly.”All equipment (alpine, snowboard and Nordic) was up 0.3 percent to $130.2 million at all stores for the period. Alpine gear was up 0.3 percent to $95.3 million; snowboard equipment rose 6 percent to $32.9 million; but Nordic gear fell 47 percent to $2 million. The Retail Audit reports covering apparel and accessories will be released next week.

Specialty Stores Show Slight Increase All sales at specialty stores were $226 million, compared to $225 million in 1999, a 0.6 percent increase. In equipment only, specialty store sales were $110 million, down 0.5 percent compared to 1999′s $110.5 million. In specific categories: alpine equipment was up 0.4 percent to $82.5 million compared to $82.2 million in 1999; snowboard equipment was up 2 percent to $26.1 million compared to $25.6 million in 1999; and Nordic equipment suffered a big hit, down 48 percent to $1.4 million from 1999′s $2.8 million. Alpine ski sales were up 3.2 percent in units but prices slipped from an average of $319 last season to $284 this year. The result is that dollars this year, $39.5 million, are behind last year by 2.5 percent. According to Spring, carry-over skis drove prices down. Twenty-one percent of all skis sold were from a previous season and the average retail price was $129. On the plus side, mid-fat skis are hot. Units surged ahead 55 percent at an average retail price of $430. In dollars, sales of mid-fats equaled $13.8 million for the period, a 49 percent increase compared to last year. Twin tip skis were up 205 percent to $970,000.

Alpine boot sales, up 7 percent compared to last season, rose to $28 million. Adult sport performance boots led the way with a 59 percent increase in dollars to $8.1 million. The average price for bindings was down from $137 last season to $128 this year. That caused sales to retreat 3.5 percent to $12.8 million. Pole sales were up 1.4 percent to $2 million.

Early-season snowboard sales were up 2.3 percent in dollars to $14 million. Snowboard boot sales were down slightly, 0.4 percent to $7 million and snowboard bindings were up 3.8 percent to $5.1 million.”We’re seeing lots of (snowboard) stuff moving out the door,” said Paul Tovar, manager, Dave’s Ski & Snowboard, Tahoe City, Calif. “At first it was clothing, hats, gloves, replacement items. Now it’s bindings and boots. The stiff, high-tech boots are really strong.”

Nordic skis fell 55 percent to $496,000; boots were off 47 percent to $620,000; bindings dropped 46 percent to $182,000; and Nordic poles were off 5 percent to $147,000. But Nordic equipment sales are doing well in some parts of the country. “Our early cross country has been real strong. I just got off the phone and placed another order,” said David Fabris, manager of The Ski Company Mountain Sports, Rochester, N.Y.

Chain Store Sales Hot All sales at chain stores were $71 million, a 5.5 percent increase over $67 million in 1999. Chain stores had sales of $69 million for the 1998 period. In equipment sales, chain store sales were $20.2 million, up 5.2 percent over 1999. In the categories: alpine equipment were down slightly 0.1 percent to $12.8 million compared to 1999; snowboard gear was up 25 percent to $6.8 million compared to 1999; and Nordic equipment suffered, down 45 percent to $500,930. Alpine ski sales at the chains were down 13 percent to $6 million. Alpine boot sales had a 23 percent increase to $4.4 million compared to last season. Bindings were down 0.2 percent to $2.1 million. Pole sales were up 32 percent to $384,000.

Early-season snowboard sales were up 24 percent in dollars to $3.7 million. Snowboard boot sales were up 27.5 percent to $2.2 million and snowboard bindings were up 28 percent to $981,000. In Nordic sales, skis fell 22 percent to $193,000; boots were off 68 percent to $152,000; bindings dropped 67 percent to $55,000; and poles strode ahead 242 percent to $99,000.