Snow Sports Market Stays Afloat as the Economy Sinks

While the overall retail market struggled to make it into the black after Thanksgiving, the snow sports market remained healthy with 3% growth according to SnowSports Industries America's (SIA) exclusive research. August to November snow sports sales surpassed $917 million as the overall retail market faltered in the recession's nadir. Cross country ski equipment is a bright spot in the hard goods category with 14% growth season over season.
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MCLEAN, Va. -- While the overall retail market struggled to make it into the black after Thanksgiving, the snow sports market remained healthy with 3% growth according to SnowSports Industries America's (SIA) exclusive research. August to November snow sports sales surpassed $917 million as the overall retail market faltered in the recession's nadir.

"Retail trade sales were down 2.0 percent from October 2008 and were 8.5 percent below last year." (U.S. Census Bureau, Advance Monthly Sales for Retail Trade and Food Services, November 2008).

SIA further reports that carryover and juniors' equipment sales continued to lead the snow sports hard goods market while sales of this season's alpine ski and snowboard equipment sagged. Cross country ski equipment is a bright spot in the hard goods category with 14% growth season over season. Apparel sales reached $400 million so far this season representing 2% growth over August through November sales in 2007. Apparel suits, anything fleece, snowboard apparel, hats and gloves flew off the shelves as winter made its presence known across the country. Accessories that anyone on the slopes may need including goggles, helmets and wax got hotter as the temperatures got colder. In fact, all accessories sales increased 7% compared to season to date sales in November 2007.

Sales of carryover gear continued to account for a significant portion of equipment sales in November. Carryover accounted for 30% of skis, 23% of snowboards, 21% of ski boots, and 23% of snowboard boots sold August to November 2008. Compare that to last season's August to November results when carryover sales accounted for just 20% of skis and 21% of snowboards sold and millions fewer dollars spent. However, sales of current year model alpine ski equipment sagged heavily with most ski categories down significantly. In fact, excluding carryover sales, current model alpine ski sales are down about 16%. Ski prices are up across the board but dollar sales of skis (including carryover) are down almost 7% despite the increase. Cross country equipment was a very bright spot in the equipment market in November with sales of nearly $9.5 million from August through November, a 14% increase over last season's August to November sales. Snowboard equipment sales were up 3% overall and were selling particularly well online, where sales have increased 25% compared to August to November sales last season.

Parents didn't slow their spending on equipment and apparel for the kids in November. Overall, junior's equipment sales increased 12%; junior ski sales were up 21% in dollars, junior snowboard sales increased 1% in dollars. Parents were not skimping on apparel for their kids either, junior apparel sales increased 7% and a surprise in the numbers was sales of junior snow suits that increased more than 40% in units and in dollars.

"I bought all the gear, clothing and lessons my daughter needed to start

skiing because she's 5 years old and I want her to have the same great experiences on the slopes that I had when I was a kid. I can wait until next
year for new skis." Michelle Mikesell, WISP Resort, Deep Creek, Maryland

The Internet channel slowed the pace of growth in November gaining 13% in dollars and 23% in units compared to August to November 2007. Overall, consumers spent $202 million on snow sports equipment, apparel, and accessories online. Internet sales comprised 22% of all the dollars consumers spent on snow sports products in the U.S. between August 1 and November 30, 2008.

Specialty shops were responsible for $559 million of the $917 million in total sales (includes specialty shops, chain stores, and online sales) for the snow sports marketplace August through November 2008. Specialty store sales increased slightly season over season in November.

Consumers still prefer to buy their equipment in specialty shops. In fact, 79% of alpine equipment, 72% of Nordic gear and 67% of all snowboard equipment was sold in specialty shops so far this season.

Chain stores' equipment sales continue to sink with total decreases of 21% in dollars and 19% in units. Alpine ski sales are down 24% and snowboard equipment sales decreased 22%. Chain stores equipment sales accounted for just 11% of all equipment sales in the U.S. snow sports marketplace from August to November. Apparel sales made up half of all chain store snow sports sales August through November 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. Note: The August to November retail data does not include resort retail shops.

SIA partners with Leisure Trends Group to provide reliable data about the snow sports market, and about the people who work and play in the snow. The data contained in this press release is collected by Leisure Trends Group for the SIA. Note that August to November retail data does not include resort retail shops. If you need additional information, contact Kelly Davis, Director of Research at KDavis@snowsports.org or by phone at 703.506.4224.

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) is a not-for-profit trade association whereby competing on-snow product suppliers magnify their power, by working together, for the development of the on-snow sports industry. For more information, check out http://www.snowsports.org/. SnowSports Industries America, 8377-B Greensboro Drive, McLean, VA 22102-3587. Phone: 703.556.9020, Fax: 703.821.8276, E-mail: SIAmail@snowsports.org

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