McLEAN, Va. (January 14, 2001) — The second retail sales report for the season shows sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up slightly by 0.6 percent from August through November, compared to the same period of 2000. In dollars, that translates to $502 million in sales so far this year compared to $499 million in 2000. Though sales are up for the beginning of the season, units tracked 6.3 percent behind last year. Specifically for the month of November, sales were $262 million compared to $270 last year.

“The early numbers indicate that the economy and 9/11 are not the problem. The problem is our old buddy, the weather. It has been a tough fall and unless it snows at the right time and the right place it could be a tough winter and spring,” said Jim Spring of Leisure Trends Group, the research firm that prepares the annual Retail Audit for SnowSports Industries America.

SIA is the not-for-profit industry trade group that represents manufacturers and distributors of snow sports products. Chain store information will be released separately next week. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the second of six reports that will look at sales through March 31, 2002, the end of the winter season.

All equipment (alpine, snowboard and Nordic) was up 3.5 percent to $238.2 million from $230.1 million in 2000. Snowboard equipment up 18.4 percent or $71.8 million in sales, compared to $60.6 million in the same timeframe last year. Alpine gear was down 2.9 percent or $158.7 million as compared to $163.5 last year. Nordic equipment rose 27.2 percent to $7.7 million and sales for Nordic equipment in the same time frame in 2000 were $6.1 million.

Apparel and accessories both saw losses during the November period, 1.8 percent and 2.1 percent respectively, a drop from the gains that these categories had seen in the August through October period. Sales for apparel were $138.8 million while accessories were $125 million. Last season sales for apparel were $141.4 million while accessories were $127 million.

Surge in Pre-Season Snowboard Sales

Early demand for snowboard equipment continued, despite the warm weather, and the category saw an increase of 19.2 percent to $35.7 million. Freestyle and freeride boards are hot this season, growing 18 percent and 25.5 percent in dollars as compared to last season. Snowboard boot sales were up, 14.9 percent to $20.2 million, and snowboard bindings were up 21.3 percent to $15.9 million.

Alpine ski sales fell 12.4 percent to $61.0 million. Some categories remained strong, according to Spring, with midfat, fat and twin-tips all registering gains. Midfat is now the leader in unit sales, outselling carvers by 42 percent. Another bright spot is ski systems which are selling for an average of $724. Alpine ski inventory is in good shape going into the rest of the season.

Alpine boot sales are down 4.9 percent to $57.2 million compared to last season However, sport performance boots are again hot this year, advancing 20 percent in dollars while adult recreation boots made a 38 percent gain. Bindings are down 1.2 percent as compared to last year to $25.4 million in dollars. Inventory levels for bindings are low. Poles are down 20.4 percent in sales to $3.7 million.

One of the other bright spots in hard goods is the sales increase of Nordic equipment. Even without snow, Nordic sales climbed after two poor seasons. Nordic skis were up 57.4 percent to $3.3 million followed by bindings (up 19.4 percent to $2.7 million), boots (up 11.4 percent to $1.1 million). The only weak sales in Nordic were seen in poles, down 18.7 percent to $543,377.

Snowboard Apparel Also Hot

Snowboard apparel was up 12.4 percent to $28.8 million, and is starting to sell at alpine prices. The average snowboard top now sells for $143 compared to the average alpine top at $142.

While the warm weather has not helped apparel sales, insulated parrkas rose 5.1 percent to $25.2 million. In women’s categories, women’s insulated parkas were up 20.3 percent to $9.6 million. Shell parkas were off overall by 12.7 percent however, but junior’s shell parkas were up 48.5 percent. Vests are still hot, up 18.1 percent. Back from the 80′s and gaining popularity, sales of stretch suits increased by 89.9 percent.

Bottoms are down 7.9 percent in dollars to $22.1 million. Junior bottoms saw a lift of 3.3 percent. According to Spring, sales of carry-over in apparel represent 19 percent of sales and 17.5 percent of inventory. There are now over one million pieces of apparel currently for sale or already sold in specialty stores this season.

Auto Racks See a Surge

Equipment accessories were up 10.9 percent to $70.3 million from $63.4 million last season. Snowshoes are still leading the increase (up 82.8 percent to $4.3 million.) Auto racks are benefiting from the zero percent financing in auto sales and are up 14.9 percent to 15.2 million. A recent SIA/Leisure Trends Consumer Study found that 58 percent of Americans planning on traveling in the next six months said that they would drive to their destination ¿ another contributor to the increase in car racks.

In addition, a new category this season, snow decks/skates sold $1.8 million. Apparel accessories were down 14.9 percent to $54.7 million in dollars from $64.3 last season. The only category that saw any type of dollar gain was mitts, up 3.4 percent to 3.7 million.