Lack of Snow Crimps Holiday Retail Sales

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SAM Magazine-Boulder, Colo., Jan. 13, 2012-Unseasonably warm and dry weather cooled off snowsport retail sales in November, and more broadly, curbed sales of overall outdoor products in December. Preliminary Outdoor RetailTRAK data from Leisure Trends Group indicate that outdoor retail sales declined a little more than 2 percent from December 2010. Still, overall outdoor sales in 2011 grew 8 percent over 2010.

November snowsports sales rose 7 percent, though that represented a smaller rise than in the previous three months, and it's likely that snowsport retailers shared in the general December decline.

"Weather in the Eastern half of the US, where as many as 15 states logged record or near-record high temperatures in December, didn't do outdoor retailers any favors," said Leisure Trends Retail Analyst Elisabeth Stahura.

Outdoor specialty was hit hardest by the lack of winter weather, with December sales down 7 percent. Chain store sales declined 3 percent. Regionally, outdoor specialty retail sales in the Midwest declined 15 percent, and in the Northeast, 12 percent. The South was down 9 percent. On a positive note, outdoor specialists in the West saw a 7.5 percent sales increase.

Seasonal categories, such as insulated jackets, winter boots, hats, gloves and winter equipment, drove the declines, and suggest that December and January sales of wintersports goods will be lackluster.

Looking ahead, Stahura said, "We are an industry that is dependent on the weather, and it goes without saying that lack of snow equates to lack of sales in seasonal categories. We are already seeing significant discounting moving into late-season, and outdoor specialty inventory was up 12 percent overall at the end of the year."

The November wintersports sales rise of 7 percent resulted from a small 1 percent bump in units and a 6 percent jump in retail selling prices. For the season through November, snowsport sales increased 10 percent in dollars and 5 percent in units.