Ask ten different people about the state of snowboarding in their country, and you’ll probably get ten different answers. SNOWboarding Business polled industry folks from around the world on what was happening in their regional and national markets and the news wasn’t great. Consolidation, lower prices, and closeouts seem to be the major themes. However, not everyone paints the same picture:
“The pressure is definitely growing as the average- to medium-sized labels lose market share. Their existence is threatened due to the large amounts of closeouts and oversupply available for distributors and retailers. There’s almost twice as much capacity as orders placed this season.
“Elan is seeing major growth within the Scandinavian market. Also Eastern Europe is showing more and more interest for snowboards.
“Preseason orders in Austria, Germany, and France are down and lots of closeouts are available. The average price of a snowboard is about ten percent lower than in the previous years. In Switzerland the demand is growing and with retail being quite clean.”-Martin Lehner at Elan in Austria
“In general, the snowboard market is still increasing by five to eight percent in most European countries. The only problem facing the stores are the boards from last season. Also those companies that are not settled in Europe are trying to gain market share with extremely aggressive pricing. In Europe, sales of boards out of the shops are approximately 380,000 to 400,000.”-Jürgen Schütte, K2 Snowboards Germany
“The market is down at the moment. Big retail chains dominate the market and only a few ‘scene’ shops sell boards from companies other than Burton, Salomon, and Nitro. Unfortunately, the big companies are backed by the proper infrastructure to sell enough boards. The problem isn’t having enough consumers to buy boards in the shops, but the shops ordering boards from only the big companies.”-Bene Heimstädt, editor and publisher, Pleasure Magazine
“There are a lot of different brands in the Netherlands, but the total amount of boards sold is not very high-maybe only 3,000 to 5,000. A lot of importers and distributors work from their garages or their mother’s homes. And in this small market you have five different snowboard magazines in Dutch the primary language in the Netherlands.”-Hotze Zijlstra, editor, D-E-E-P Snowboarding Magazine
“The market situation is critical because there are still too many different brands in Finland. Orders from retailers are down due to old inventory and gray-market distributing.”-Miikka Valkonen, Rossignol/Nitro distributor in Finland
“The snowboarding market in Sweden is large and growing. The scene is becoming really commercial and we host some of the biggest events in the world-Teli Minicall Super Session, King of The Hill, Scandinavium, and others. Snowboarding and snowboarders get a lot of attention in the media. We even have a weekly TV show about snowboarding and skateboarding. All of this pushes the demand for new brands and events, and creates more interest. Orders from retailers are definitely up.”-Mattias Fornell, editor-in-chief, Edge Snowboard Magazine
“The market is not too healthy in Sweden. The big chain stores produce their own brands and sell those boards really cheap. And they only buy high-end boards from ‘easy-to-sell’ brands like Burton and Salomon. This leaves the smaller brands out in the cold. These brands have to share a really tiny piece of the market. If the chain stores would buy and sell ‘the real’ brands, then we wouldn’t have these problems.
“Orders from retailers are down. No one dares to order in preseason because of the gray market. However, when they order in the middle of the season, the product may have already been sold out to the international retailers.”-Pelle Jansson, editor-in-chief, FunSport
“Gray marketing has made the market bleed severely, and there are only two or three brands that sell decent numbers at regular prices. Snowboarding is still a very popular sport, and growing steadily, but the prices on boards, boots, and bindings are far lower than before. Therefore there’s a big problem for magazines to get advertisers, and for the distributors to get pre-bookings on product. Several gray-marketing companies are competing with each other, and a lot of big customers who normally would pre-order 200 boards, are now only pre-ordering maybe between 30 to 50.”-Brian Bohannan, PTI distribution in Sweden
“The snowboarding market is just forming in Russia. Three and a half years ago, the capacity of the whole market was 50 boards per season. This season we have sold a little bit more than 1,000 boards. We expect a 40- to 50-percent increase next season. You cannot say though that the market is becoming strong. The major problem is hidden in the absence of resorts. As soon as the resort industry improves, we will be able to say that the snowboarding market is becoming healthy.”-Yuri, Burton distributor in the Russian Federation
“The snowboard market in Australia (New South Wales region) is not that healthy-skating is much bigger. We’ll never compete against Europe and America/North America, due to weather, snow fall, and snow conditions. When we want to ski, we leave the country and head for Canada.
“The closest spots to ride are Perisher Blue and Thredbo, which are a good five- to six-hour drive. And last season was bad, with only two great weekends during the entire three-month season. We ran a snowboarding buyer’s guide last season and it’s not running this year due to lack of interest.”-Fiona Liu, art director, Universal Magazines in Australia
“The snowboarding market in New Zealand is still super strong. Most people have now tried it and have purchased their first board. The mountain resorts now fully support snowboarding by offering good quality pipes, parks, and events (many of these are now to international standards).
“Good specialty retailers are selling more top-end boards than ever, where sales at non-specialty retailers are much slower. Retailers have consolidated their brands and are only carrying three to five strong ones. There may be five- to ten-percent less new snowboards sold in New Zealand this season.”-James White, manager, The General Store, Christchurch, New Zealand
“Things are bleak for the Japanese economy. The Yen has taken another beating, which makes it more costly for Japanese to buy abroad and import. It’s important to understand the macroeconomics of the situation.
“Japanese society is aging. The cost of living is so high that people have largely stopped having children and-unlike in the United States-there is very little immigration to make up for the native shortfall. This means fewer people entering the work force-paying social security and income tax-each year.
“At the same time, people are living longer, which means more retired people drawing out of social security. Older people are also the ones who remember what it was like when times were really rough in postwar Japan. As the economy moves into recession, parents and grandparents are less likely to give Junior money to buy a surfboard, skateboard, or snowboard. They’ll bank it for Junior’s education-if there is a Junior. Otherwise, they’ll just bank it.
“So, there are fewer kids in an environment of increasingly fiscally conservative parents. To make matters worse, the government raised sales taxes and medical co-payments last year. Japan has a socialized medical system and, of course, older people are the ones who go to the doctor. If going to the doctor becomes more expensive, people start saving even more for what they perceive to be a lot of rainy days ahead. Economic dow
nturn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”-A distributor in Japan