Record year? Snowsports sales continue to scorch at retail

The record pace of snowsports sales continued through January according to the latest retail report. SNEWS finds out what's left on the shelves, and just how soon the all-time sales record will fall.
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Following a record single month of $1 billion in snowsports sales in December of 2010, ski and snowboard retail is continuing its blistering pace at the cash register. On Monday, Feb. 28th, 2011, preliminary SIA RetailTRAK data reported that January 2011 sales jumped approximately 17 percent across all sales channels including chain stores, online and specialty shops.

The sales report, which is compiled by the Leisure Trends Group, shows that equipment sales in the snowsports market are up to $2.6B, a full 16 percent higher than last season at this time, and well above Aug-Jan sales in both the 2008/2009 and 2007/2008 seasons. In fact, snowsport retailers comfortably outpaced general retail this month, which was up 8.3 percent over January 2010, according to the US Census Bureau.

With the release of the report, many experts in the snowsports field think the reality of the 2010/2011 season finishing as the all-time record holder in retail sales for the channel is only a formality now. “I predict a record season, which means something north of $3.05 billion (overall),” said Kelly Davis, director of research at Snowsports Industries America. “I think we will finish the season up about 11 percent from 2009/10 that finished with $2.94 billion. That would give us $3.26 billion in total sales and a record season.”

According to Leisure Trends, January 2011's strong sales occurred in a month which, despite several large winter storms across the country, actually ranked 9th driest on record. However, the colder than average temperatures across the country kept consumer demand for winter-related products high. “Especially strong growth came out of insulated jackets, fleece jackets and cold-weather accessories such as gloves, hats, base layer and socks,” the report reads, “Sales at snowsport retail are expected to maintain an upward trajectory in 2011.”

That means that two of the only questions remaining in the market are exactly what’s left to sell, and how quickly the all-time sales record will fall. Many ski and snowboard manufacturers are beginning to take advantage of this season’s deep sell-through with early offerings from next season’s line. And Davis reports that for what is left on the shelves, the margins are staying high.

“Product is still selling well according to retailers we have spoken with,” she said. “There is some scarcity, but it is serving to keep prices strong. (Just) try to find deep discounts on current season gear right now. Usually that would be easy. Not so this season.”

And as for when she expects the new record sales number to become final? “We'll get there at the end of March,” she said.

According to the Leisure Trends Group, that’s whether or not the snow continues to fall. “These consumers are more likely to make room in their budget to support the things that they love to do,” Leisure Trends retail analyst Elisabeth Stahura, “even if it means cutting back in other areas. The fact that (snowsport) retailers outperformed general retail is evidence of this.”--Peter Kray

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