SIA Retail Audit Reveals Shifting Markets

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SAM Magazine--McLean, Va., Dec.17, 2004--Retail sales for skiing and snowboarding for the August through October period were up 3 percent in dollars to $323.3 million while unit sales declined 3.6 percent, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Strength in carve skis, integrated ski-binding systems, Twintips, tele gear, parkas and winter boots was countered by weakness in snowboard gear, midfats skis, soft boots, and juniors.

Specialty stores account for nearly 80 percent of total sales, and trends in these stores are telling. Twintips are hot, for example, with prices down and ample inventory to meet the demand. At an average retail price of $351 (vs. $379 last year), twin tip ski sales shot up 72 percent in dollars, reaching $2.3 million.

In Alpine equipment, the ski mix is shifting toward carve-friendly models (up 62 percent) and away from midfats (down 34 percent). Midfats still outsell carve skis by at least 25 percent, but since waist widths for carve skis are increasing, the distinction between these two types is blurring. Integrated systems grew 23 percent in dollars. Compared to last season's strong start, junior ski sales fell 8 percent. Alpine boot sales increased 7 percent in dollars led by gains in high performance (18 percent) and sport performance (10 percent). Soft boot dollars fell 39 percent.

Snowboard equipment sales were down 9 percent. All mountain models were up 4 percent and accounted for 13 percent of all board units. Freestyle and freeride boards dipped 6 and 5 percent, respectively. Step-in boots and bindings continued their steep decline, with 52 percent and 73 percent drops in dollar sales, respectively.

Telemark sales jumped 47 percent in dollars, continuing where they left off last year. Nordic gear, though, is down 6 percent from last year, when sales grew more than 40 percent.

In apparel, insulated parka sales rose 9 percent in dollars. Soft shell parka sales growth slowed from nearly triple digit growth in the past two seasons, but still jumped 29 percent. Shell parkas rebounded from a weak 2003 with a healthy 16 percent dollar gain. Vest and fleece sales also improved with sales up 32 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

Snowboard apparel sales followed the trend of snowboard equipment and slumped 22 percent in dollars. But women are becoming a more important part of the mix. Last season at this time, men's snowboard tops outsold women's 2.1 to 1. This season, that ratio dropped to 1.7 to 1. But junior apparel sales tanked: top and bottom dollars sunk 47 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Both equipment and apparel accessories were up just 1 percent. In equipment healthy dollar gains from goggles and sunglasses (up 12 percent and 9 percent, respectively) offset weakness in snow decks/skates (down 57 percent) and snowshoes (down 65 percent). In apparel, winter boots skyrocketed 52 percent, offsetting declines in headwear (down 12 percent) and gloves (down 9 percent).

Trends in chain store sales were similar, but a few stats are worth noting. Last year, alpine skis outsold integrated systems 2.2 to 1 in dollars. This year the ratio fell to 1.8 to 1. In a reversal from specialty stores, Nordic ski gear sales were up sharply: for example, skis, at a $62 average retail price, were up 40 percent. Tele gear saw a similarly big increase in unit sales, but dollar sales dropped 5 percent as average prices plummeted from $326 to $235 for skis and from $260 to $152 for boots. \