Despite Warm January, Retail Sales Rock On

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SAM Magazine-McClean, Va., Mar. 14, 2006-Overall sales for the winter sport market were up 9 percent to $1.8 billion for the August 2005 through January 2006 period, compared to $1.7 billion a year earlier, according to the SIA Retail Audit. Unit sales were up 8 percent.

Sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 8 percent, to $1.4 billion in sales from $1.3 billion. Unit sales were up 6 percent. January sales were dampened by warm weather and rain in the eastern half of the U.S., bringing a slight chill to what has been a hot retail season.

As earlier Audits have indicated, women's and junior categories were strong, particularly softshell parkas. Soft shells, in fact, were up 45 percent overall in specialty stores, 91 percent in chains. Vests and fleece continue to generate double-digit increases, a trend which began last season. Sales at specialty stores were up for both categories, 37 percent and 14 percent, respectively, over last season. Snowboard apparel was also strong in specialty stores, up 17 percent.

Equipment accessories were also hot, growing 14 percent at specialty stores, led by goggles (up 15 percent), sunglasses (up 31 percent), snowshoes (up 24 percent), helmets (up 18 percent), technical day packs (up 30 percent), and luggage (up 16 percent).

Freestyle board sales ruled, up 26 percent and accounting for 45 percent of all board dollars at specialty stores. Freeride boards rose 11 percent, totaling 39 percent of all board sales, while all-mountain boards sagged 13 percent, to just 10 percent of all units sold.

Ski sales were up slightly year-to-date, and remain sparked by twintips and integrated systems. The ratio of adult flat skis to adult integrated systems fell to 1.16 to 1, compared to 1.76 to 1 a year ago. Twintip ski sales leaped 65 percent. Junior ski systems soared 157 percent and accounted for 8 percent of all system units sold, up from 4 percent last season.

Nordic and Telemark sales remained slightly below year-ago totals, 2 and 8 percent, respectively, in specialty stores. Nordic was off substantially in chains, though Telemark was up slightly.

Overall sales at chain stores rose 10 percent, to $421 million, compared to $383.5 million a year earlier. Unit sales were up 12 percent. Trends were similar to specialty stores: Snowboard equipment, integrated systems, accessories, and apparel sales were strongest. The hottest categories: softshells, plus fleece and vests, and women's insulated parkas and shells.