SIA Retail Audit Shows Dollar Sales Rise, Units Drop

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SAM Magazine--McLean, Va., May 18, 2005--Retail sales at winter sports specialty and chain stores rose 1.9 percent, to $2.25 billion for the August 2004 through March 2005 period, compared to $2.20 billion a year ago, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Unit sales dropped 7.8 percent. The trend toward higher-priced merchandise and lower unit sales suggests that season's passholders were upgrading their gear, but that the entry-level market has stalled.

For the year, sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 1.5 percent to $1.74 billion compared to $1.71 billion a year ago. Unit sales were down 3.3 percent. Sales at chain stores were up 3.5 percent to $509.5 million, while unit sales plunged 17.8 percent. Sales could have been worse: "Specialty store sales were especially strong in the month of March, topping March's dollar sales last season by 29 percent," said Christine Martinez, market research manager for SIA.

As has been the case for the past few years, Alpine ski sales have been trending toward integrated systems. Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, fell 14 percent while integrated systems jumped 31 percent. Twin-tip ski sales continue to grow, up 26 percent in dollars to $7.9 million. However, junior ski sales declined 15 percent. For junior products overall, only shell tops increased, up a whopping 50 percent.

Revealing the influence of advanced skiers and the lack of newcomers, high performance boot dollars increased 14 percent and accounted for 44 percent of all boots sold through March. Recreation boots and soft boots suffered 15 percent and 44 percent dollar losses, respectively.

Snowboard gear and apparel showed little change at either specialty stores or chains, except for step-in boots and bindings, which dropped 21 percent and 76 percent, respectively, at specialists. All-mountain boards at specialty stores showed the biggest drop, off 10 percent.

Overall apparel sales were up slightly, led by soft-shell parkas and shells (parkas rose 15 percent at specialty stores). Specialty stores' vest and fleece sales impressed, up 42 percent and 11 percent, respectively. At chains, women's snowboard tops were up 24 percent, and soft shell garments hit the mainstream: soft shell parkas increased 120 percent, and soft shell waist pants rose 66 percent. Fleece (up 30 percent) and vests (up 83 percent) did even better than at the specialty outlets.

Telemark and cross-country sales fell slightly in specialty stores, but were off by 22 to 31 percent in chains. This follows large double-digit increases in both types of stores a year ago.

Accessories climbed a slight 1 percent increase in dollars, led by winter boots (up 31 percent in specialty stores, 93 percent in chains). Biggest losers in specialty stores were snow decks/skates (down 47 percent) and snowshoes (down 28 percent). \