While there may be signs of economic optimism on the rise, the view in the rear view is bleak. Snow sliders kept a tight grip on their wallets in February and sales dropped 16 percent over last February’s numbers according to SIA.
"Frankly, I have been wondering when the SIA audit data would catch up to the reality of the market. The winter sports market has been difficult all season," commented Tim Petrick, VP Global Sales, K2 Sports to SIA.
The chart From SIA below shows the drop off in sales of alpine ski and snowboard equipment that began in November and continued becoming particularly severe in February this season.
Source: SIA Retail Audit Top Line Reports (includes carryover sales)
According to SIA: The apparel and accessories categories have fared better than equipment this season as skiers and riders continued to hit the slopes despite their fears about the economy. Apparel sales are down 4.7% in dollars but increased 2.3% in units August-February 2008/09 compared to August-February 2007/08, and accessories sales were flat in dollars and down 1% in units during the same time period. Overall, the snow sports market fared better than many industries this season with a 3.6% decline in dollars sold and flat unit sales August-February 2008/09 compared to August-February 2007/08.
"February was the meanest month this year and still alpine ski units are down only 6.5%, alpine boots 5.6% and snowboards 3% compared to 07/08. The downward pressure on equipment prices throughout the season is less than during the snowless 2000/2001 season when alpine equipment fell 16% in dollars and 10% in units. The threat of looming credit problems is troublesome but retailers cannot sell from an empty wagon so the industry is back to working out how to finance inventories once again. Surprisingly, sales of ski gear are holding up compared to other industries. And skiers tell us they will keep skiing but are unwilling to pay top dollar. This lesson should have been learned this past season." Jim Spring, President, Leisure Trends Group
The table below shows retail sales by channel. Snow sports specialty shops still sell the "lion's share" of gear, chain stores are selling less equipment and more apparel, and the Internet channel continues to broaden significantly even in difficult economic times.
The market data presented in this report comes from the SIA Consumer Panel maintained by SIA and the Retail Audit conducted by the Leisure Trends Group. The consumer panel consists of approximately 1,700 snow sports consumers who have opted to become a member of the Panel. The Retail Audit consists of data gathered directly from the Point of Sale systems of about 1/3 of the snow sports retailers in the U.S. market. 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. SIA maintains these data for members down to the product level. For more information about SIA's Retail Audit information please contact Kelly Davis, SIA's Director of Research at KDavis@snowsports.org.