Apparel Cushions Retail Sales Slide

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SAM Magazine-McLean, Va., Mar. 23, 2007-Snowsports retail sales at specialty stores declined 3 percent for the August through January period this year compared to the prior season, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Sales totaled $1.37 billion compared to $1.41 billion in 2006 as an 8 percent gain in apparel sales helped offset declines in accessories and hard goods. Unit sales were down 3 percent. The retail performance was surprisingly good, considering the warm temperatures and lack of natural snow that persisted east of the Mississippi throughout much of January.

New for this season, the SIA Retail Audit now tracks the Internet channel of distribution. For the August 2006 through January 2007 period, snowsport Internet sales totaled a significant $274 million. Total sales at specialty stores and via the Internet climbed to $1.6 billion for the August through January period.

Hot apparel categories included alpine tops generally, with women's insulated parkas, softshells, vests, and fleece leading the way. In accessories, turtlenecks, headwear, neck gaiters and winter boots were the only categories to record gains. Sunglasses (down 21 percent) and snowshoes (down 37 percent) saw the steepest declines.

Sales of alpine equipment, including skis, ski systems, boots, bindings and poles, fell 7 percent. Integrateed systems (4 percent), twintip (14 percent), mid-fat (19 percent) and fat skis (113 percent) saw increases.

Snowboard equipment sales were down 15 percent; the bright spot was all-mountain boards, which jumped 28 percent, and now comprise 14 percent of the board market (up from 10 percent a year earlier). Freeride boards dropped 26 percent, to 32 percent of the market (from 38 percent a year ago).

Nordic and Telemark sales were each off by more than 30 percent.

Apparel continues to dominate online sales, accounting for 68 percent of sales volume. Accessories rack up 24 percent and equipment, 17 percent. Twintips are the best-selling Alpine gear on the Internet, at 29 percent of all online ski units.