According to the SnowSports Industries America Retail Audit, sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 1.1% for the August through December period compared to last season. In dollars, that translates to $1.06 billion in sales compared to $1.05 billion in 2002. Unit sales were up from last season tracking 5.2% ahead.

Sales for the holiday month of December in specialty stores were $540.8 million compared to $519.9 million, an increase of 4.0%. Unit sales spiked even higher for the month by increasing 7.6 percent.

“This was an incredible holiday season for the ski and snowboard industry. Snowboard equipment and apparel did very well in specialty stores,” said Julie Lynch, director of market research 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 third report of six that look at sales through March 31, 2004, the end of the winter season.

All equipment (alpine, snowboard, Nordic and telemark) in specialty stores was down just slightly 2.1 percent, tracking at $425.6 million compared to $434.8 million in 2002. Alpine equipment (including skis, boots, bindings, poles and systems) decreased 12.3 percent to $251.9 million compared to $287.3 million last year. Snowboard equipment (including snowboards, boots and bindings) was up 15.0 percent to $149.9 million. Sales for snowboard equipment in 2002 tracked at $130.3 million. Unit sales gained 13.6 percent. Nordic equipment (including skis, boots, bindings and poles) sales propelled forward, tracking at $20.2 million, a gain of 36.5 percent over last season's $14.8 million. Telemark equipment (including skis, boots and bindings) tracked at $3.6 million, a gain of 51.5 percent over 2002.

Apparel gained 5.6 percent to $318.7 million compared to $301.8 million in 2002. Units were up 9.3 percent. The accessories category saw a slight increase of 1.4 percent to $318.4 million compared to $314.0 million in 2002. According to Scott Jaeger of Leisure Trends Group, “The December gains turned season-to-date dollar declines at the end of November into positive gains in the space of a month.”

Hot Equipment Trends During the Holidays: Junior Alpine Equipment and Integrated Systems

Alpine ski sales (including integrated systems) were down 8.4 percent in dollars to $119.7 million. However, ski binding systems had strong sales so far this season, gaining 22.5 percent to $39.4 million. Unit sales for the integrated systems jumped 41.3 percent.

Lower prices undoubtedly spurred sales as average retail prices fell 13 percent or $82 a system. Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, were down 18.5 percent to $80.3 million. Show me the powder! Fat skis have done fairly well this season, gaining 21.5 percent to $4.7 million. Junior skis stayed hot during the holiday season, increasing 7.1 percent in dollars to $9.6 million, while gaining 21.5 percent in units. In addition, customers are still looking for a bargain as carry-over skis sales increased 42.9 percent in dollars to $7.3 million. Carve ski sales continue their steady descent into obscurity. Sales were down 38.4 percent in units and 34.6 percent in dollars. Unit sales account for only 9 percent of all alpine skis sold this season, down from 13 percent a year ago.

Alpine boots are still outselling every alpine equipment category in unit sales. Current skiers seem to be turning in their old equipment. However, boots sales declined 12.6 percent in dollars to $95.1 million compared to last season. The boot categories with the most action were juniors and carryover. Juniors gained 14.1 percent to $9.2 million while carryover increased 53.5 percent to $5.8 million. All other categories declined, high performance (down 16.8 percent to $37.7 million), sport performance (down 2.9 percent to $26.6 million) and recreation boots (down 40.0 percent to $10.0 million). It looks like the soft boot trend is losing ground. To date, soft boot sales have declined 24.0 percent in dollars to $5.9 million. The average retail price has plunged and sell-through is only at 35 percent. Expect clearances this spring.

Stand alone alpine binding sales were down 23.6 percent in dollars to $29.7 million. However, whenever you add in integrated system binding sales, things look better; dollars sales declined only 2.7 percent to $69.1 million. Junior bindings, the only category to see any growth, were up 6.6 percent in dollars to $6.1 million. Both DIN 8-11 (down 29.2 percent to $13.6 million) and DIN 12-14 (down 30.5 percent to $8.5 million) saw significant declines. In addition, alpine poles declined 16.7 percent in dollars to $7.4 million. The problem in poles looks to be with carry over which declined 42.1 percent in dollars to $578,107.

Riders are Coming Back to Specialty Shops to Buy Snowboard Equipment

Snowboard equipment experienced the largest dollar sales during the holiday season ever. Snowboard equipment sales for the month of December were 20.8 percent ahead in dollars as compared to a year ago. For August through December, boards increased 15.4 percent in dollars to $71.6 million and 15.0 percent in units. At the end of December, snowboards were 58 percent sold through which may leave some retailers short this spring.

The two hottest categories, those products seeing increases in dollar sales, were freestyle and all mountain boards both of which made significant gains. Freestyle boards were up 32.7 percent to $28.1 million and all mountain boards gained 47.3 percent to $6.0 million. However, the biggest seller in unit sales, freeride boards, gained only slightly, 0.88 percent to $26.8 million. Retailers had plenty of boards left over from last season, carry-over sales surged ahead 52.9 percent to $5.4 million. Both women's and junior snowboards have made significant gains in units sold season-to-date. Women's snowboards gained 52.9 percent in units and juniors grew 18.4 percent.

Snowboard boots are hot right now, gaining 13.9 percent in dollars to $43.7 million. Boots outsold both snowboards and bindings by almost 60,000 units each. Snowboard bindings were also up 15.6 percent in dollars to $34.7 million. In addition, both carry-over boots and bindings were selling, an increase in dollars of 92.2 percent and 88.6 percent, respectively.

Telemark Upward Trend Continues

Telemark skis increased 13.3 percent in dollars to $1.2 million while gaining 25.0 percent in units. Telemark boots and bindings leapt 79.6 percent ($1.5 million) and 83.3 percent ($949,840) in dollars, respectively. Are consumers retrofitting their old alpine skis or updating their existing telemark skis with newer and better bindings?

In addition, Nordic equipment stayed hot during the holiday season. Every category made significant gains with increases in skis (up 38.8 percent to $8.4 million), boots (up 31.1 percent to $6.6 million), bindings (up 49.0 percent to $3.2 million) and poles (up 27.5 percent to $1.9 million).

Snowboard Apparel Sales Keep Up With Snowboard Equipment
Apparel sales for the month of December, including tops, bottoms and snowboard, grew 8.0 percent compared to sales last year. Apparel sales hit an all time high of $158.2 million for the month of December. Apparel tops for the period of August through December, tracked 6.6 percent ahead of last season in dollars to $187.4 million. The clear winners were insulated parkas (up 18.5 percent to $73.1 million), softshell parkas (up 76.1 percent to $8.3 million) and fleece (including vests) (up 17.0 percent to $42.8 million). In addition, women's (up 25.4 percent to $34.8 million), men's (up 18.3 million to $25.7 million) and junior (up 3.6 percent to $12.7 million) insulated parkas did well. Shell parkas (down 17.1 percent to $35.9 million), vests (down 2.3 percent to $2.8 million) and sweaters (down 12.6 percent to $13.8 million) all declined. There was not as much carryover to sell this season in apparel tops; the category was down 1.6 percent in dollars to $10.8 million. Apparel suits were down 37.4 percent to $7.4 million.

Apparel bottoms benefited from the cold weather as well. Bottoms were up 3.5 percent in dollars to $60.1 million with units tracking 10.2 percent ahead of last season. Softshell (up 70.3 percent to $1.0 million), insulated waist pants (up 2.4 percent to $15.6 million) and stretch waist pants (up 23.0 percent to $7.2 million) saw increases. Junior bottoms which make up almost a quarter of the alpine bottoms category in units, gained 17.3 percent in dollars to $8.8 million. Carry-over bottoms increased 54.7 percent in units and 10.1 percent in dollars.

Riders updated their wardrobes as fast as they did their equipment. At the end of December, all snowboard apparel was up 13.7 percent in dollars to $63.7 million. Snowboard tops gained 15.6 percent to $34.7 million while snowboard bottoms gained 3.5 percent to $23.7 million. In both snowboard tops and bottoms, all categories made significant gains except for men's bottoms which declined 4.2 percent to $14.6 million. Men's (up 16.5 percent to $20.6 million), women's (up 12.1 percent to $10.3 million) and junior (up 21.0 percent to $3.8 million) snowboard tops took off during the holidays. In addition, both women's (up 19.0 percent to $6.3 million) and junior (up 18.4 percent to $2.9 million) snowboard bottoms stayed hot. Retailers didn't hesitate to liquidate leftover snowboard apparel this season; carryover, eight percent of snowboard apparel dollar sales, leapt 70.2 percent in dollars to $5.3 million.

Apparel Accessories Boosted December Sales

So far this season, equipment accessories are tracking behind 8.8 percent to $142.8 million. Two categories to see pick up during the holidays were goggles (up 0.24 percent to $25.3 million) and snowshoes (up 36.7 percent to $11.8 million). All other categories saw declines including: auto racks (down 6.1 percent to $22.2 million), sunglasses (down 5.7 percent to $15.4 million) and helmets (down 28.1 percent to $24.7 million). Snowdecks/skates also declined 52.2 percent in dollars to $1.3 million; perhaps they jumped the distribution ship to the skateboard shops?

Apparel accessories did really well this December; tracking 12.1 percent ahead in dollars compared to last December. Apparel accessories were up 11.6 percent in dollars to $175.7 million for the period August through December. Every category saw increases except turtlenecks (down 10.2 percent to $8.8 million) and headwear (down 5.4 percent to $26.8 million). Winter boots (up 98.0 percent in dollars to $9.7 million), gloves (up 18.2 percent to $28.8 million), mitts (up 1.7 percent to $10.5 million), socks (up 16.1 percent to $18.0 million) and base layer (up 15.4 percent to $43.3 million) all jumped ahead.