With early snow falling in New England and the Pacific Northwest finally seeing some new powder in the mountains, the 2005-06 winter season is gaining some early momentum that should help propel healthy industry-wide growth through the rest of the season. Overall sales for the entire winter sports market, including Specialty and Chain stores, were up 9% in dollars to $348.8 million for the 2005 August through October period, compared to $319.6 million reported last year, with unit sales increasing 10% according to the SnowSports Industries America Retail Audit.

Unlike last year, Specialty SnowSports retailers are fueling the majority of the growth with an increase of 10% in dollars to $278.5 million. This compares to last season when Specialty retailers reported $253.6 million. Unit sales at Specialty were up 12%. Sales at Chain stores were up 6% to $70.3 million compared to $66.1 million for the same period last season. Unit sales at Chain retailers were up 4%.

Integrated ski systems are driving the hardgoods growth at Specialty retailers, with the number of units sold increasing 25% to roughly 39,000 and revenue generated increasing 24% to over $17 million. Average selling prices for integrated systems remains relatively stable. While non-integrated ski sales slipped during the period, the total number of skis sold so far this year has increased 3% as pent-up consumer demand drives sales.

Overall binding sales fell considerably this season due to the proliferation of ski systems. However, sales of higher performance, DIN 12-14 bindings, increased 9% in units and 6% in dollars.

The twin-tip ski is clearly the technology behind the growth for the season. Sales during the pre-season increased 55% in units and 49% in dollars. Retailers clearly learned from last season’s strong trend in the product. Inventories for twin-tips are up 64% over last year. These figures are likely even higher than reported since they do not include all-mountain twin-tips, which are reported in the Carve and Midfat categories. The second primary growth driver in skis was fat skis, which increased 15% in units and 16% in dollars.

Even alpine boots are selling through this season, with unit-sales increasing 6% and dollar-sales climbing 5%. Intermediate level boots are the primary growth driver, but all categories, from recreational to high performance, are showing increases.

While the Rockies have recently received record snowfalls, it was slightly later than last year, especially in the telemark Mecca of the Wasatch. As a result, sales of telemark gear were down for the August-October period. Unit-sales fell 25% and dollars fell 12%. Telemark boot ASP’s jumped $70 this season to $428, pushing dollar sales up 24% while units climbed 4%.

The recent increase in “Nordic Jibbing” is fueling some growth in the Nordic category, with sales of skis, boots, bindings, and poles all increasing.

Specialty ski retailers did have some inventories left over from last year, but they have been relatively successful at turning it around at slightly higher prices. Carryover ski sales increased 5% in units and 18% in dollars. Snowboard Specialty retailers kept their inventories lean after last year’s slow season and carryover board sales declined 25% in units and 31% in dollars.

Now that snow has returned to the snowboarder-populated Pacific Northwest, sales in snowboard hardgoods are increasing at their historic levels. All equipment sales in the category are up 7% in units and 9% in dollars. Freestyle boards are the primary growth driver with a 34% increase in dollars-sold. Freeride boards are also up in the mid-single-digits, but the all mountain category showed significant declines. Snowboard boot sales increased 7% in dollars on a slight increase in ASP’s and bindings increased 9% in dollars with a slight decline in ASP’s.

Apparel continues to be a strong category for all SnowSports retailers. Total category sales increased 16% in units and 13% in dollars with revenues from alpine tops growing 16%, bottoms growing 5%, and snowboard apparel increasing 14%. After huge increases in soft-shell sales at Specialty retailers last year, the category posted only a 2% increase in dollars-sold so far this year. The product that is clearly building momentum this year is insulated outerwear.

Overall, Specialty retailers sold 16% more insulated parkas with revenues increasing 15% so far this year. The women’s category is growing even faster with 20% more units sold and an increase of 21% in dollars. Re-orders in this category are likely since inventories are 14% lower than last year already.

Chain stores, much like last year, are seeing solid low-single-digit growth in the SnowSports category so far this year, driven by higher unit-sales and slightly higher ASP’s, which increased dramatically last year. Most of the higher ASP’s are driven by higher end apparel sales, as alpine equipment actually saw a considerable decrease in sales prices. This decline was driven primarily by increasing sales of lower priced alpine ski systems, which increased 54% in units-sold and only 14% in dollars –sold. Chain stores are doing a much better job of monitoring alpine hardgoods inventories, carry-over sales from declined 18% in dollars and 32% in units.

The ski market appears to be healthy across the board.

The total number of skis sold, both systems and stand-alone, increased 20% in Chain stores. Both Nordic and telemark hardgoods saw considerable declines through Chain stores since many of the larger players no longer carry either category. Snowboard hardgoods sales increased 10% in units and 8% in dollars as the market continues its snow-driven rebound.

SnowSports apparel sales through Chain stores began the season with considerable momentum thanks to the addition of many premium brands to Chain stores’ product assortment. The category was led by a 366% increase in the number of soft-shells sold, which pushed dollar sales in the category up 254%. Softshell tops are now roughly 8% of the winter outerwear market compared to only 2% last year.

SIA Snow Sports Retail Audit
 2005 August-October Results
(Select Equipment & Apparel Categories)
(in $ millions) Chain  4-May Specialty 4-May
Stores Change Stores Change
Total $70.3 6.4% $278.5 9.8%
Equipment $15.7 -1.0% $117.9 6.0%
Alpine $7.8 -3.0% $73.7 4.3%
Nordic $0.185 -65.0% $3.0 15.0%
Telemark $0.165 0.2% $1.0 -11.6%
Randonee/AT $0.3 41.9%
Snowboard $7.4 8.0% $39.9 9.3%
Apparel $33.4 15.0% $89.4 12.9%
Alpine $76.0 12.8%
Snowboard

About The Author

Teresa Hartford

Teresa Hartford Editorial & Creative Director | SGB Media teresa@sgbonline.com | 704.651.5741

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