Snowboard Sales In Chains Up 24%, Even In Specialty Stores

McLEAN, VA (June 12, 2001) ¿ Snowboard sales in chains were up 24 percent, but even in specialty stores for the 2001 selling season. However, snowboarding looked much better than skiing for the year-end results. Overall, sales of snow sports products remained steady in March, the last month of the 2001 selling season, and the industry was able to record its third best sales year ever with $2.2 billion in sales, reports SnowSports Industries America, the non-profit industry trade group that represents manufacturers and distributors of snow sports products. This season’s $2.2 billion in sales was seven percent behind last year.

Last year, scorching sales in February and March ($814 million) pushed 2000 season sales to an all-time high of $2.4 billion, well above the $2.2 billion recorded in 1999. February and March sales this season were $490 million. The SIA Retail Audit tracks sales in all snow sports product categories for the August 1 through March 31 selling season. This is the final of six reports this season that look at snow sports equipment sales. Retail Audit reports covering apparel and accessories sales for the year will be released separately.

Looking beyond the sales numbers indicates that the 2000-2001 season was a good year. “Sales were down 5.4 percent in dollars, but units were up 5.2 percent,” said Jim Spring of Leisure Trends Group, the research firm that prepares the annual Retail Audit for SIA. “The sales downturn was caused almost completely by the average price dropping in alpine ski equipment. And inventories have never been so low. Retailers have never made as much money. The positive news is that unit sales are up, which is an expression of demand. While the other part of the equation is that inventories were too low to support demand. The industry lost sales because of low stocks of best selling items.”

Taking a view of retail sales in general, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that sales slipped 0.1 percent in March compared to February, but were 2 percent ahead of March 2000. The national retail sales figures for March caused concern about a slowing of the economy, indicating consumers were less inclined to spend because of stock market volatility and a weaker job market.

“Since many people view skiing as too expensive, this is the year that we can say technology in equipment drove prices down to the benefit of the consumer,” said Spring. “And it’s true. In specialty stores, carver skis dropped in price significantly, ski boards sold for an average of $208, twintips for $321 and you can still get a good pair of junior skis for an average of $137 a pair. It is clear from the sales picture that the market is turning away from the expert skier.”

“We had a pretty good March,” said Mike Owen, owner of the Ski Barn in Slatyfork, WV. “Our sales were up from the prior year. People were buying, there wasn’t much hesitation.” Owen credited the brisk business at his four stores to the weather. “Good snow is an obvious factor. As long as the snow is good, people will spend money.”

Specialty Stores Equipment Sales Slip from Last Year

All sales at specialty stores were $1.7 billion for the season, a nine percent drop from the $1.8 billion in 2000, but comparable to the $1.7 billion in 1999 sales. In equipment only, specialty store sales were $666 million, a 12 percent drop from 2000’s $758 million and off the $732 million in sales in 1999.

In specific categories: alpine equipment had sales of $467 million, down 16 percent from 2000’s $557 million and less than 1999’s $560 million; snowboard equipment $173 million, no change from 2000, but more than 1999’s $131 million; and Nordic equipment $25 million, down from 2000’s $28 million and well below 1999’s $41 million.

Snowboard sales for the year were $82 million, up two percent; snowboard boots $53 million, down four percent; and snowboard bindings $38 million, up one percent.

“Snowboard equipment climbed less than one percent inn units. Boards were up in dollars two percent with freestyle rising in double digits. The average retail price of a snowboard this year was $292, up from $284 in 2000,” said Spring.

“Alpine ski inventory is one-half of the 1999-00 season-end inventory and sits at 151,000 pair,” said Spring. “The percentage of left-over skis compared to availability is 17 percent, an all-time low.”

Alpine ski sales for the year were $207 million, down 19 percent from 2000. Mid-fat skis continued to be a positive selling item with sales of $80 million, up six percent. Twintip skis sales were $7 million, a 243 percent increase over last year.

“Our boots did well all year, but our skis just started to move at the end of the season,” said Brandon Trent, manager of Lombard Sports in San Francisco. “It was a short season. March was decent, it was a stronger month than last year. But just when we seemed to get started, the season ended. Spring came early and fast to Tahoe.”

Alpine boot sales for 2001 were $172 million, down eight percent. Adult sport performance boots led the way with $59 million in sales, up 62 percent, while adult recreational boots showed a 21 percent jump to $15 million. Sales of bindings were $72 million, down 26 percent; and pole sales were $16 million, off two percent from last year.

“The year was pretty much status quo for us,” said Curt Clauson, manager of Wildernest Sports, Teton Village, WY. “We had less than normal snowfall this year, but I think we’ll come out on track.”

Nordic ski and boot sales were each $9 million, with skis off 14 percent and boots down 13 percent from last year; bindings came in at $5 million, down two percent; and Nordic poles at $3 million, up 13 percent.

Chain Stores Sales Up Slightly

All sales at chain stores were $537 million, a one percent increase compared to 2000’s $531 million, but not quite matching 1999’s $541 million in sales.

In the categories: alpine equipment sales were $80 million, down 12 percent; snowboard gear $61 million, up 17 percent; and Nordic equipment $8 million, down 27 percent.

Snowboard sales at chain stores topped out at $31 million, up 24 percent; snowboard boots $20 million, up 11 percent; and snowboard bindings $10 million, up nine percent. “Snowboard equipment represented 11 percent of total dollars compared to alpine ski at 15 percent,” said Spring. “This illustrates how important the snowboard category has become to the big box sporting stores. Total board sales through the end of March were 452,000 of which chain sport stores accounted for 173,000 or 38 percent of the units.” Alpine ski sales at the chains came in at $34 million, down 14 percent. Alpine boot sales recorded $29 million in sales, down 12 percent. Bindings sold $13 million, down 13 percent; and poles $4 million, up 39 percent. “Dollars were down 14 percent in alpine skis. All classes, except carve, were up,” said Spring. “But the 56 percent decline in carry-over skis deflated sales. Only 58,000 pair of carry-over sold compared to 105,000 pair last season. It’s getting tough to find close-outs.”

In Nordic sales, skis and boots were each $3 million, down 25 percent and 31 percent respectively; bindings $1 million, down 52 percent; and poles $786,000, up 293 percent.

Snow and cold weather brought sales to resort shops. This season, resort shops accounted for 20 percent of total industry sales, up from 15 percent in 2000. “Alpine started at the slow end,” said Adam Garman, sales manager for The Racer’s Edge in Breckenridge, CO. “Then we got a spring break with an influx of snow ¿ 100 inches in March. That was quite a boon. Our business came in March and we were steady across the board.”