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Cold East Coast Weather Fueled Apparel Sales In January

MARCH 18, 2004 -- "Specialty stores benefited from cold weather on the East Coast as skiers and snowboarders helped propel apparel sales up 8% over last season," said Christine Martinez,
market research manager for SIA. For the month of January, specialty apparel sales (including tops, bottoms and snowboard) were up 19% in dollars to $78.1 million as compared to $65.6 million in January 2003. Insulated parkas, soft shells and snowboard apparel continued to perform exceptionally well this season in part due to the cold weather. When comparing this season to last, insulated parka sales were up 23% to $91.4 million. Soft shell parkas have nearly doubled their sales over last season. At an average retail price of $216 in January, they were up a substantial 92% in dollars to $10.3 million.

Soft shell waist pants performed almost as well as their parka counterparts, jumping 89% in dollars over
last season to $1.4 million. The brutal weather also helped contribute to very good fleece and base layer apparel sales. As compared to last season, fleece tops were up 23% to $50.3 million and base layer apparel up 18% to $58.4 million.

Riders continue to update their apparel as quickly as they do their equipment. Snowboard apparel sales were up 16% in dollars, ending January 2004 with $77.8 million in sales for the season thus far. In particular, junior snowboard tops and women's snowboard bottoms increased sales notably over last season, gaining 20% and 21%, respectively. Carryover snowboard apparel continues to be very popular
with riders. Sales almost doubled this season, up 71% in dollars to $6.1 million through January 2004.

Shell parkas and apparel suits did not fare so well, with dollar sales falling behind 14% and 38%, respectively, over last season. Vests (no fleece) (down 0.4% to $3.2 million), sweaters (down 14% to $16.4 million) and carryover tops (down 5% to $13 million) also tracked behind last season's sales.

Worth noting is the jump in stretch suit sales over last season. Although these suits sold at an average retail price of $225 in January 2004, $17 cheaper than its price in January 2003, sales were still up 49% over last season.

Overall equipment sales (alpine, snowboard, Nordic and telemark) were down 2% in dollars as compared to last season with sales totaling $520.7 million through January 2004. Alpine equipment (including skis, boots, bindings, poles and systems) contributed to this decline, tracking behind 13% in dollar sales this season over last.

Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, fell 20% in dollars over last season, ending January 2004 with
$97.5 million in sales. Even the lower retail prices (down 10%) did not spur sales. Substantial dollar decreases came from carving skis (down 36% to $11.9 million), ski boards (down 29% to $3.0 million) and midfat skis (down 27% to $51.9 million). However, fat ski sales managed a healthy jump of 25% in dollars over last season ending January with $6.1 million in sales. It is clear that skis with a larger
surface area is the present trend. The season-to-date retail price of $531 is $23 cheaper than last season's price.

Integrated ski systems saved the alpine equipment category with significant gains this season. All integrated ski system sales were up 23% in dollars, prompted by average retail prices which were $74 cheaper than last season. By the end of January 2004, integrated ski systems were 61% sold-through and totaled $48.9 million in sales.

Carryover and junior ski equipment also showed promising signs at specialty stores this season. Carryover ski sales were up 22% over last year totaling $8.6 million through January 2004 while junior ski sales shot up 21% in units. Prices for junior skis continue to be down this season – retailing for $107 in January 2004, down from $127 in January 2003.

Alpine boot sales declined 13% in dollars due to falling sales in recreation boots (down 41% to $12.2 million), soft boots (down 24% to $7.4 million) and high performance boots (down 16% to $47.6 million). Soft boots continued on their decline as average retail prices plunged from $352 to $265 in January 2004. In line with their category ski sales, carryover and junior boots also continued to track well this season with 9% and 13% increases, respectively, over last season.

Along with a drop in alpine ski and boot sales, came a drop in alpine binding sales as compared to last season – overall down 25% in dollars to $35.9 million through January 2004. Junior binding sales, specifically, managed a small increase -- up 5% in dollars even with a 15% decrease in price.

Alpine pole sales also declined totaling $9.5 million through January 2004. The entire alpine pole category fell 17% in dollars, largely due to carryover pole sales plunging 44% over last season. Junior equipment, again, managed to sell as junior pole sales gained 2% over last season.

Nordic and telemark ski equipment continue to gain popularity in specialty stores. Nordic ski equipment sales jumped 46% in dollars to $29.5 million through January 2004. Specifically Nordic skis and bindings performed well, up 49% and 54%, respectively. Comparing this season to last, average retail prices of Nordic skis increased $13 to $135.

Telemark ski equipment sales performed even better, culminating in a 61% increase over last season's sales and reaching $4.8 million through January 2004. Telemark boot and binding sales leapt 86% and 99%, respectively. With boot and binding sales outpacing ski sales, telemark skiers seem to be updating their existing skis with the latest technology in boots and bindings.

Along with Nordic and telemark equipment, snowboard equipment (including snowboards, boots and bindings) is also tracking ahead of last season in dollars at specialty stores. Through January, all snowboard equipment sales were up 16% in dollars ending with $176.1 million for the season thus far. Snowboard (up 15% to $82.1 million), boot (up 15% to $52.7 million) and binding (up 18% to $41.3 million) sales all increased at similar paces this season over last. All mountain (up 46% to $6.8 million) and carryover snowboard (up 49% to $6.2 million) sales performed remarkably well as compared to last season. Freestyle boards continued to drive the category with sales reaching $32.7 million through January 2004 while freeride board sales were flat as compared to last season. Carryover boots and bindings performed well for the snowboard equipment market, up 85% and 111%, respectively, over last season. Predictably, both step-in boot and step-in bindings did not perform as well, with 75% and 64% drops in dollar sales, respectively, over last season.

The entire accessories category was up slightly 2% in dollars to $423 million through January 2004. Equipment accessories, in particular, declined 9% due to substantial drops in snow deck/skate and helmet sales, 52% and 28%, respectively. Snowshoes cushioned these declines with a healthy jump of 30% over last season up to $14.2 million through January 2004. All other categories were down
compared to last season including: sunglasses (down 7% to $18.9 million), auto racks (down 6% to $26.4 million) and goggles (down 0.2% to $36.7 million).

As opposed to equipment accessories, apparel accessories continued to do well this season with sales up 12% in dollars to $236.3 million through January 2004. Winter boots were hot with sales nearly doubling over last season. Winter boots (up 87% to $11.9 million), gloves (up 19% to $39.7 million), base layer (up 18% to $58.4 million) and socks (up 15% to $24.6 million) all experienced moderate
increases over last season. Turtleneck and headgear sales in dollars continued to fall behind in January, declining 14% and 7%, respectively, over last season.

Overall sales at specialty stores were up 1.8% in dollars to $1.34 billion for August 2003 through January 2004 as compared to $1.32 billion for the same period last season. This increase in sales can be attributed to the growing interest in Nordic and telemark skiing as well as healthy gains in the apparel and snowboard equipment markets. Unit sales at specialty stores were up from last season tracking
6.5% ahead. Sales for the month of January in specialty stores were $277.9 million compared to $265.6 million, an increase of 4.6%. Unit sales spiked even higher for the month by increasing 10.7%.

Overall sales for the entire winter sport market (including specialty and chain stores), increased slightly by 1.8% in dollars to $1.72 billion for August 2003 through January 2004 as compared to $1.69 billion for the same period last season according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) Retail Audit.

Unit sales were ahead 5.8%. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the fourth report of six that look at sales through March 31, 2004, the end of the winter season.

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Copyright 2004 Sporting Goods Business

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