A solid March following a super February propelled retail sales of all snow sports products to a new high water mark of $2.3 billion and put the 1999-00 winter season 4.2 percent ahead of the prior year.

The last three months of the season (January through March) saw the industry recover from a 7.2 percent deficit at the end of December to post a positive gain by the end of the season, according to the fifth and final SIA Topline Retail Audit of the winter. The SnowSports Industries America Retail Audit tracks sales of winter sports products at the retail level.

“The season started slowly, but once the snows hit in mid-January, retail sales picked up dramatically,” said SIA President David Ingemie. “This past season illustrates what we all know, good snow translates into good sales.”

Leading the late season surge — as they had all season — were sales of snowboard equipment and apparel. Sales of snowboard related merchandise the past winter was up 33.7 percent compared to last year, to $338.9 million, and snowboard products accounted for 15 percent of all snow sports sales. Growth in snowshoes and helmets also contributed to the boom.

An interesting development to watch is when consumers made purchases this past winter. The purchasing patterns on winter 1998-99 followed traditional models, but this past winter showed a shift. The question is whether the new buying patterns become the norm or are just and anomaly. Here is a comparison of when purchases were made the last two winters:

Period 1998/99 1999/00
August-October 12.3% 12.4%
November 13.2% 9.9%
December 29.1% 27.5%
January 16.9% 11.2%
February-March 28.5% 38.9%

Combined Specialty and Chain Stores Gain GroundTotal dollars recorded at retail this past winter was $2,327,387,717. All equipment sold at retail was $895.3 million while all apparel was $772.7 million and all accessories were $659.4 million. The two hottest categories for the year were helmets, with combined sales of $53.3 million and snowshoes that checked in with $16.3 million.

Snow Sports Specialty Shops Move UpwardAll equipment sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 1.4 percent in dollars while apparel was up 9.3 percent and accessories were up 11 percent compared to last year.

Alpine Equipment — All alpine equipment fell 3.3 percent with skis up 2.7 percent and boots down 11.3 percent.

Snowboard Equipment — Snowboard equipment was up 32.2 percent with boots up 35.9 percent and boards showing a 28.8 percent gain.

Apparel — Snowboard outerwear showed a healthy 34.3 percent increase.

Equipment and apparel accessories — Equipment accessories were up 7.3 percent with helmets showing a 71.3 percent increase, snowshoes up 16.1 percent and auto racks were up 42.1 percent. All apparel accessories were up 14.4 percent, with socks (up 21.4 percent) showing the strongest gain.

Chain stores show mixed resultsAll equipment at chain stores showed a 29.1 percent decrease while all apparel was up 4.6 percent and accessories jumped 29 percent.

Alpine equipment — Alpine equipment had a 43.6 percent drop as a category and skis went downhill with a 40.6 percent decrease

Snowboard equipment — Snowboard gear displayed a 58.6 percent increase with boards up 65.8 percent and boots topping out with a 71.1 percent increase.

Apparel — Women’s insulated parkas were up 49.8 percent and men’s shell parkas were up 40.7 percent. Snowboard apparel was down 4.7 percent.

Equipment and apparel accessories — Equipment accessories were up 5.4 percent, with helmets showing a 205.7 percent boost, but snowshoes dropped 11 percent. Apparel accessories were up 44.8 percent with winter boots up 91.8 percent and turtlenecks were up 96.7 percent.

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 or sales@snowsports.org.

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) is the national, nonprofit, member-owned trade association of competing on-snow product manufacturers, suppliers and distributors working together to promote and develop the winter sports industry. Association information about SIA can be found at www.snowsports.org.