Overall sales for the entire SnowSports market, including specialty and chain stores, were up 2.8% in dollars to $1.76 billion for the August 2004 through January 2005 period, compared to $1.71 billion reported for the same period last year, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit. Unit sales were down 7.3%. Sales at chain stores were up 3.6% to $390.8 million in sales compared to $377.1 million for the same period last season. Unit sales were down from last season 17.8%.

“Clearance sales and late-month snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast helped sales at chain stores increase almost 4% in the month of January,” said Christine Martinez, market research manager for SIA, the not-for-profit industry trade group that represents manufacturers and distributors of snow sports products. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the fourth report of six that look at sales through March 31, 2005, the end of the winter season.

Overall equipment sales (alpine, snowboard, Nordic, Telemark and Randonee/AT) were up 1% in dollars as compared to last season with season-to-date sales totaling $115.9 million. Alpine equipment sales (including skis, systems, boots, bindings and poles) were down 1% over last season ending January 2005 with $53.1 million in sales.

Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, fell 16% in dollars as integrated ski systems rose 17% in dollars over last season. This January, the average retail price for an integrated system was $398, down from $408 in January 2004. Add alpine skis to integrated ski systems and total ski dollar sales fell 5% this season.

Though still a small category, fat ski sales jumped 12% in dollars. Season-to-date average retail prices for carve skis moved from $224 last season to $292 this season. The result was a 31% jump in dollars. Leisure Trends Group has changed the carver max width definition to 69mm, reflecting the wider carver skis that are being produced.

From August-January of this season, alpine boots picked up 8% in dollars thanks to higher retail prices this season over last. High performance boots performed well with $6.6 million in sales, an increase of 13% over last season. Recreation boots ($171 average retail) grew 32% in dollars while sport performance boots, 26% of all boot units sold this season, declined 1% in dollars. Junior boot sales sank 24%.

All stand-alone binding sales fell 12% in dollars over last season, with season-to-date sales reaching $5.9 million. In dollars, the DIN 8-11 category decreased 6%, DIN 12-14 slid 29% and juniors fell 2%.

Alpine pole sales were down 11% over last season, reaching $2.8 million in season-to-date sales. Adult pole (down 11%), junior pole (down 22%) and carryover pole (down 6%) sales all contributed to the category performance.

Nordic ski equipment sales (including skis, boots, bindings and poles) dropped in January, down 11% in dollars over last season, totaling $5.1 million in season-to-date sales. Nordic skis, at a $109 average retail price, (down 7%), boots (down 24%) and poles (down 1%) all experienced losses in dollar sales over last season.

Telemark ski equipment (including skis, boots and bindings) dollars also showed a decrease, down 21%, ending January 2005 with $925,000 in sales. Telemark ski, boot and binding sales fell 25%, 20% and 16%, respectively this season over last.

Through January 2005, snowboard equipment sales were up 4% in dollars as compared to last season with total sales reaching $56.3 million. Snowboard sales gained 2% over last season as average retail prices jumped. This January, the average retail selling price for a snowboard was $202, up from $172 in January 2004. Units of snowboard boots and bindings also fell; however, dollar sales managed small increases, 7% and 4%, respectively. All mountain boards, at an average retail price of $190, grew 11% in dollars while freestyle boards, at an average retail price of $243, jumped 10% in dollars. Freeride boards, accounting for 27% of all board units sold this season, managed a 2% gain in dollars. Season-to-date average retail price increased from $234 to $268.

Retailers did not have a lot of boards left over to sell this fall as carryover snowboard sales declined 5% in dollars. Carryover boots and carryover bindings, however, managed to increase sales, up 12% and 15%, respectively.

Snowboard apparel did manage to make some small gains in chain stores, up 8% over last season to $30.2 million. Women drove snowboard top sales with 23% dollar increases compared to the men’s 5% dollar decrease. In January, women’s snowboard tops outsold men’s tops by more than 2,000 units. Snowboard bottoms were up 16% this season over last.

Chain store apparel sales rose 6% in dollars, with season-to-date sales reaching $152.3 million. The average retail price for an apparel item rose from $71 to $85 comparing this August-January period to the same period last season.

Insulated parkas (up 5%), soft shell parkas (up 146%), fleece (up 29%), vests (up 81%) and soft shell waist pants (up 46%) all experienced dollar increases as compared to last season. Season-to-date, soft shell parkas accounted for 5% of all apparel top dollars sold. Apparel suits, bibs and sweaters did not fare as well, with sales down 45%, 23% and 19%, respectively.

Apparel accessories performed well, with $80.5 million in sales thus far this season, a 9% increase over last season. As in specialty stores, winter boots were again hot in the chain stores this season. Winter boots (up 90%) and base layer (up 27%) drove category dollar growth. Except for auto racks (up 22% in dollars) and snowshoes (up 12% in dollars), most equipment accessory categories were down in the double digits. As a result, the equipment accessory category fell 5% behind last season’s dollars for the same period. Thanks in part to apparel accessories, the entire accessories category was up 3% in dollars with sales at $122.6 million through January 2005.