February proved to be a surprising month at retail for the Winter Sports market as chain store dollar sales increased in the high-single-digits, with average selling prices improving in double-digits, according to retail point-of-sale data compiled by SportScanINFO. 


Looking at the market from a broad perspective, increases in apparel sales more than offset declines in hardgoods for the month, with both segments seeing increased average selling prices as consumers continued to buy technical gear for the slopes well into the season.

“Based on preliminary survey results, combined with the SSI point-of-sale data, it appears the consumer bought into hardgoods earlier in the season and updated their apparel and accessories later in the season as snow levels remain solid well into spring,” said James Hartford, president and CEO of The SportsOneSource Group.  “We expect that retailers will have increased open-to-buy for next year as inventories look cleaner than in recent years.”

In hardgoods, Alpine equipment sales decreased in the mid-singles, while Snowboard sales decreased in the low-singles in dollar terms.  In Alpine, both Boots and Systems saw sales increases for the month, but were offset by declines in Skis, Bindings and Poles.  The Snowboard business saw growth in both Boots and Bindings be subverted by a high-single-digit decline in Board sales.

Accessories saw double-digit growth in dollars for the month, confirming talk on the trade show floor of success selling Goggles and other lower ticket items as skiers and boarders looked for a way to update their style without breaking the bank.  Helmets and Goggles both saw double-digit sales growth for February, according to the SSI data.

Ted Manning, VP and general merchandise manager at EMS, concurs with the Accessories data.  “We are seeing very strong accessories sales, especially in combination with our priority sports,” he said. “I attribute it to better merchandising in stores, better store level execution at point of sale, and a consumer who was getting outside in a more meaningful way, especially in comparison to years past.  This is a critical category for retailers, this year in particular.  A tough economy may impact high ticket items, but consumers will still look to be active and to improve their experiences.  Accessories are a great tool for that.”