Warm Weather Trims Retail Sales Gain for 2005-06

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SAM Magazine-McLean, Va.. Apr. 19, 2006-Retail winter sports sales remained sluggish in February, but overall sales for specialty and chain stores nonetheless totalled $2.2 billion for the August 2005 through February 2006 period, up 6 percent from $2.1 billion a year earlier, according to the SIA Retail Audit. Unit sales were up 7 percent. Sales rose slightly more at chains than at specialty outlets. SIA blamed warm weather east of the Rockies for the slowdown.

Integrated systems and apparel continued to drive sales. Soft shells, women's and children's apparel were strong categories, as were shell parkas (up 39 percent), reflecting the impact of a warm winter. Vests and fleece sales rose by 32 percent and 15 percent, respectively, in specialty stores-for perhaps the same reason. Soft shells in particular benefited from huge increases in women's and children's lines, which incorporated this technology in a big way this season. Snowboard apparel was another bright spot.

Accessories remained hot. Among the key categories at specialty stores: goggles (up 11%), sunglasses (up 22%), snowshoes (up 18%), helmets (up 17%), technical day packs (up 29%), luggage (up 12%), and snowboard accessories (up 13%).

In skis, alpine systems (especially for juniors) and twintips continued to sell well. Systems were up 20 percent in specialty stores, with twintips rising by 58 percent. Through February, the ratio of adult flat skis to adult integrated systems fell to 1.1 to 1, compared to the 1.7 to 1 ratio for the same period a year earlier. In snowboarding, freestyle sales continued to expand, accounting for 45 percent of all board sales in specialty stores, while all-mountain gear sales dipped.

Sales of both Nordic and telemark gear at specialty stores were off 15 percent from the year-earlier period, reflecting good early snow in the earlier period and warm weather this past season. Chains saw a steeper 47 percent drop in Nordic, but a 3 percent rise in Tele sales.