McLEAN, Va. (December 13, 2001) — Even with a slumping economy and the aftermath of 9/11, the first retail sales report of the winter season adds to the general optimism emanating from the snow sports industry. Sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 4.6 percent in dollars for the first part of the season compared to the August-October period of 2000. In dollars, that translates to $240 million in sales so far this year compared to $229 million in 2000 and $225 million in 1999. Though dollar sales were up for the beginning of the season, units sold were 2.5 percent below last year.

All equipment (alpine, snowboard and Nordic) was up 3.5 percent to $112.4 million from $109 in 2000. Alpine gear was down slightly by 1.8 percent or $79.1 million as compared to $80.6 million last year. The bright spots so far this season are Nordic equipment, which rose 66.4 percent to $2.4 million, and snowboard equipment up 16.4 percent or $30.9 million in sales. Sales for Nordic equipment in 2000 tracked at $1.47 million while snowboard was $26.6 million.

“The early season merchandise sales pattern reveals something new happening in the psyche of mountain visitors. Snowshoe and Nordic ski sales were early season winners, at least, compared to the last several seasons,” 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.

Apparel and accessories both saw sales gains during the August to October period, 7.1 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. Sales for apparel were $66.8 million while accessories were $60.6 million. Last season sales for apparel were $62.4 million while accessories were $58.4 million.

The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the first of six reports that will look at sales through March 31, 2002, the end of the winter season. Unfortunately, data gathering issues caused a delay in issuing the chain store report for this period. The issue is being resolved. The November report will include both chain and specialty stores with the data for chains running from August 1 through the end of November.

Surge in Pre-Season Snowboard Sales

As always, early-season snowboard sales were up 13.7 percent to $15.9 million. Freestyle boards are hot this season, growing by 29 percent in units. Snowboard boot sales were up, 21.8 percent to $8.5 million and snowboard bindings were up 16.5 percent to $6.5 million. Alpine ski sales were down 11.1 percent to $32.6 million. However, ski prices increased from an average of $292 per pair last season to $308 per pair this year. According to Spring, sales of ski systems (integrated binding and ski) and mid-fat skis are what is feeding the price increase. Ski systems, at $683 per pair, represent nearly 7 percent of all alpine skis sold. Mid-fat skis represent 39 percent of the units sold at $375 per pair. Mid-fat skis have replaced carvers as the ski of choice. They are out-selling carvers at a rate of 4 to 3 and are up 44 percent in units. However, their average retail price has fallen from $448 per pair last autumn to $375 per pair. Another hot spot is twin-tip skis which gained 94.4 percent and rose to $1.4 million in sales.

Even though alpine boot sales are down 5 percent compared to last season, boots outsold skis by a slim margin, reversing a four-year trend. Once again, sport performance boots are hot -advancing 31 percent in dollars, helping boot sales up to $26.7 million dollars. Bindings are just slightly ahead of last year (0.8 percent) to $12.9 million. Most of the action is in the Din 8-11 binding, which bettered last year’s early season sales by 27 percent in units. Poles are down 11.5 percent in sales to $1.8 million. The lack of carry-over product is hurting this category. One of the bright spots in thee August through October period is the increase in sales of Nordic equipment up 66.4 percent to $2.4 million. Nordic Skis were up 125.3 percent to $1.1 million followed by bindings (up 70.9 percent to $309,761), boots (up 34.4 percent to $833,766) and poles (up 7.5 percent to $178,536). When looking at the overall market for Nordic equipment sold in both ski/snowboard and outdoor specialty shops, there were $3.1 million dollars worth of Nordic skis sold followed by boots ($2.3 million), bindings ($1.0 million) and poles ($478,582).

Apparel is Hot in Pre-Season Overall apparel rose 7.1 percent to $66.8 million up from $62.4 million last season. The bright spot is snowboard apparel, which was up 23.4 percent to $12.1 million. Insulated parkas grew 21.2 percent to $11.8 million.

“Merchandise sales in these clothing categories indicate that people may be heading to the mountains for the holidays to do a variety of activities, and they are willing to buy what they think they need ahead of time,” said Spring. Women’s categories are strong with insulated parkas up 40.4 percent and shell parkas up 21.8 percent. Other tops showing sign of life are vests (up 40 percent in dollars) and fleece (up 7.8 percent in dollars). The new insulated suits are up 51 percent to $1.1 million.

Bottoms are up 3.4 percent in dollars to $9.6 million. Sales of bibs, shell waist, insulated waist and juniors are up 9 percent, 6 percent, 25 percent, and 14 percent, respectively.

According to Spring, tops outsold bottoms 5 to 4. There is carry-over product here which represented 22 percent of what sold. Snowshoes See Tremendous Gains Equipment accessories were up 15.7 percent to $36.9 million from $31.9 million last season. Snowshoes lead the increase (up 211 percent to $1.1 million) as do helmets (up 24.6 percent to $4.9 million). Sales for the entire market of snowshoes sold in both ski/snowboard and outdoor specialty were $1.9 million for this pre-season period. Additionally, sales for snow decks/skates, a new category this season, were $269,099 dollars. Apparel accessories had a tougher time. This category was down 10.5 percent to $23.7 million in dollars from $26.5 last season. However, there were some bright spots. Sales of turtlenecks, headwear, gloves and mitts were all up 23 percent, 20 percent, 16 percent, and 14 percent, respectively.