The snow sports market contracted for the first time this season as recession-conscious holiday shoppers spent fewer dollars.
The equipment category declined 4% in dollars overall with the deepest loss in alpine ski and equipment sold in chain stores. Alpine ski sales, particularly current year models, declined 17% over last season even while twin tips and fat skis were selling well. The biggest loser in the alpine ski category was the mid-fat ski (70-79mm waist width) category; flat mid-fat skis were down 45% and mid-fat systems were down 14%. Alpine boots and bindings sales were about even with last season sales and current year models are selling well. Snowboards, snowboard boots, and snowboard bindings sales declined 5% season over season but reverse camber boards continue to sell extremely well. Nordic equipment sales declined 2% in dollars and 7% in units even though Alpine Touring Equipment sales soured 23% to $4.6 million.
Apparel sales accounted for more than 40% of all dollars spent overall in the snow sports market. Fleece continues to be the big seller in the apparel market with $170 million in sales, which was flat compared to Aug-Dec sales last season. Adult shell parkas sales increased 5% season and snowboard apparel continued to sell well but increased just 1% compared to last season.
The Internet channel enjoyed strong growth in December, gaining 12% in dollars and 23% in units compared to August to December 2007. Overall, consumers spent $376 million on snow sports equipment, apparel, and accessories online. Internet sales comprised 20% of all the dollars consumers spent on snow sports products in the U.S. between August 1 and Dec. 31, 2008.
The specialty channel was hit hardest by declining sales in December. The specialty market declined 5% in dollars. Specialty shops were responsible for $1.1 million of the 1.9 million in total sales (includes specialty shops, chain stores, and online sales) for the snow sports marketplace August through December 2008. Consumers still prefer to buy their equipment in specialty shops. In fact, 76% of alpine equipment, 73% of Nordic gear, and 63% of all snowboard equipment was sold in specialty shops so far this season.
Chain stores' equipment sales continue to tank with total decreases of 16% in dollars and 14% in units. Alpine ski sales are down 20% and snowboard equipment sales decreased 18%. Chain stores equipment sales accounted for just 16% of all equipment sales in the U.S. snow sports marketplace from August to December. Apparel sales made up almost half of all chain store snow sports sales August through December 2008.
The market data presented in this report comes from the SIA Retail Audit conducted by the Leisure Trends Group. Each season, Leisure Trends gathers data between August 1 and March 31 from a representative panel of more than 1,200 snow sports retailers who provide sales data directly from their Point of Sale systems. The panel and the method for extrapolating the results out to the entire industry is based on a triennial census of snow sports retailers designed to accurately define the size and structure of the snow sports retail marketplace.