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 Breaking Headlines

Early Specialty Shop Snow Sales Up 8%

JANUARY 12, 2006 -- Sales at specialty ski and snowboard shops were up 8% in dollars compared to last season. In dollars, that translates to $540.9 million in sales compared to $502.6 million in 2004.

Unit sales were up from last season 8%. "The 2005/2006 season is off to an incredibly strong start thanks to early snow and improving consumer confidence. New apparel is the hot trend as fashionable styles and women's specific products are attracting the attention of women and their kids," said Christine Martinez, market research manager for SIA. The SIA Retail Audit tracks and reports sales in all snow sports product categories. This is the second report of six that look at sales through March 31, 2006, the end of the winter season.

Most Apparel Solidly Up

Off to a very strong start this season, specialty apparel sales (including tops, bottoms, suits and snowboard) are ahead 10% in dollars as compared to the same August through November period last year. By the end of November, apparel sales had reached $179.6 million.

Insulated parka sales rose 13% in dollars this season over last with sales reaching $47.4 million by the end of November. Women's and junior insulated parkas, specifically, showed considerable dollar gains, each sub-category up 18% over last period. Women's insulated parkas led the category with $21.0 million in sales, outselling men's insulated parkas by a ratio of 1.4 to 1.

Softshell parka sales continue to thrive in specialty stores and chain stores. Dollar sales jumped 49% when comparing this period to the same period a year ago, reaching $7.8 million in sales by the end of November. At the beginning of December, softshell parkas were 30% sold-through.

As in the insulated parka category, the softshell parka category contributed their increase to women's and junior parkas. Women's and junior parkas demonstrated impressive dollar increases, 107% and 262%, respectively. More than five times as many junior parkas have sold this season-to-date than during the same period last season.

Shell parkas continue to hold their own with a slight 4% dollar gain over the same August through November period last year. Sales grew to $19.8 million by the end of November. Junior shell parkas are gaining in popularity, up 10% in dollar sales over last season.

Vests (no fleece) and fleece (includes vests) continue to generate the increase in sales which began last season. Dollar sales were up for both categories, 41% and 15%, respectively, over last season. For vests, this is the second year of double digit growth for the August to November period.

Apparel bottoms increased 8% in dollars over the same period last year with junior bottoms contributing an impressive dollar gain of 32%. Insulated waist pants, accounting for 32% of all alpine bottom dollars this season (up from 24% last season), leapt 41% in dollars. Apparel suits did not fare so well, dipping 33% in dollars. Junior suits, on the other hand, performed better, up 6% in dollars as compared to last season.

Snowboard apparel sales grew 15% in dollars totaling $29.9 million in sales by the end of November. Snowboard tops and snowboard bottoms are showing promise this period over last, up 20% and 23%, respectively. Men's snowboard tops and bottoms are leading the category with 23% and 30% dollar increases.

After a weak start last year, junior snowboard apparel is slowly recovering. Junior snowboard top and snowboard bottom dollars increased 17% and 11% over last season, respectively. At the end of November, all snowboard apparel was 29% sold-through.

Accessories Up 10%

The accessories category in specialty stores also grew from this period over last, up 10% in dollars and reaching $140.3 million by the end of November. The apparel accessories category increased sales 9% over the same period last year, totaling $72.0 million by the end of this period. The turtleneck category (down 1%) was the only category that did not contribute to this dollar increase.

Equipment accessories increased 11% with dollar gains from goggles (up 13%), sunglasses (up 44%), helmets (up 12%), technical day packs (up 22%), luggage (up 14%), wax (up 5%) and snowboard accessories (up 24%). Snow decks/skates (down 30%), ski boards (down 22%) and snowshoes (down 47%) saw considerable drops in dollar sales.

Carryover Snowboards Reduced

From August through November 2005, snowboard equipment sales (including snowboards, boots and bindings) were up 7% in dollars with sales reaching a total of $76.3 million. Snowboards (up 7% to $37.4 million), boots (up 6% to $20.5 million) and bindings (up 10% to $18.4 million) all experienced dollar increases this season over last.

By the end of November, specialty retailers had 13% fewer boards in stock than they did by the end of November 2004. In total, the snowboard category was 32% sold-through. All mountain boards declined 22% in dollar sales with $2.8 million in sales by the end of November 2005. Season-to-date, all mountain boards accounted for just 9% of all board units sold, down from 13% from the same period last season.

Freestyle boards performed well with a dollar increase of 24% and surpassing freeride boards as the largest category with 44% of all snowboard units sold (up from 37% last season). At the beginning of December, freestyle boards were 34% sold-through. Freeride boards saw dollar sales increase 10% with sales totaling $15.0 million by the end of November.

Specialty retailers cleared out their extra snowboard stock. Carryover unit sales plunged 45% reaching $1.6 million in sales by the end of November. Season-to-date, carryover boards accounted for just 7% of all boards sold, down from the 12% in the same period last season.

Step-in boots and bindings continued their decline this season with 36% and 51% declines in dollar sales, respectively, over last season.

Overall equipment sales (alpine, snowboard, Nordic, Telemark and Randonee/AT) were up 4% in dollars as compared to last season with sales totaling $221.0 million from August through November 2005. In specialty stores, alpine equipment (including skis, ski systems, boots, bindings and poles) grew 2% in dollars this season over last.

Integrated ski system sales continue to escalate totaling $31.8 million through the end of November, an increase of 27% in dollars when comparing this period to the same period a year ago. Out of the 70,000 integrated ski systems sold so far this season, 41% of the units were midfats and 49% were of the carve variety. At the end of November, integrated systems were 27% sold-through and retailers were sitting on 14% more inventory units than at the end of November 2004. Last season at this time, ski systems were 26% sold-through.

Add integrated systems to alpine skis and total ski sales grew 5% in dollars and totaled $67.3 million from August-November 2005. Alpine skis, excluding integrated systems, fell 9% in dollars over last season, ending November with $35.5 million in sales. End-November inventory stood at 310,000 units, 70,000 fewer units than at the end of November 2004, a 19% decline. At the beginning of December, the category was 30% sold-through.

Through November, the ratio of flat skis to integrated systems fell to below 2 to 1 (1.94); compare that to the 2.7 to 1 ratio for the same period last season-to-date.

Twintip ski sales continue to impress, up 54% in dollars, reaching $3.9 million in sales by the end of this period. End-November inventories were 55% greater than they were last November and the category was still 31% sold-through.

Fat alpine skis continue to sell with an increase of 29% in dollars over last season. Though still a small category, super fat skis leapt 137% in dollars.

Carve skis are starting the season off slower than last, down 13% in dollar sales. Midfat alpine skis fell 37% in dollars when compared to the same August through November period in 2004. With $8.1 million in sales thus far, midfats accounted for 23% of all alpine ski dollars sold, down from 33% of all dollars last season. All ski carryover sales decreased a healthy 17% in dollars.

Junior ski equipment may be making a comeback. Junior ski systems, 8% of all system units sold (up from 4% last season) jumped 141% in dollars. Accounting for 17% of all alpine ski dollars sold thus far this season, junior skis, excluding systems, are up 26% in dollars over last season. End-November inventories stood at 94,000 units, even with last season at this time. Added together, both junior integrated systems and skis were 35% sold-through at the end of November.

From August through November 2005, total alpine boot sales had increased 3% in dollars ($52.8 million in sales). So far this season, 227,000 pairs of alpine boots were sold, 22,000 more units than all integrated systems and alpine skis combined.

Alpine boots aimed at intermediates grew the fastest. Dollars increased for high performance boots (up 2%), sport performance boots, 28% of all boot units sold, (up 12%) and recreation boots (up 22%). Carryover boot sales fell 12% in dollars and accounted for 7% of all boot units sold, down from 11% for the same period last year. Junior boots are still going strong with dollars increasing 10% over last season. Through November, total units sold stood at 55,000, on par with the combined number of junior skis and junior integrated systems.

Add stand-alone alpine bindings to those attached to integrated systems and total binding sales increased 12% in dollars. The growth of integrated systems has clearly resulted in a decline in sales of stand-alone bindings. Stand-alone binding sales fell 15% in dollars, totaling $11.5 million at the end of November. At the end of this period, 259,000 binding units sat in retail inventory, 26% fewer units than at the end of last period.

DIN 8-11 bindings, 36% of all binding units sold season-to-date, fell 32% in dollars. Higher-end performance DIN 12-14 bindings grew 3% in dollars. Similar to junior ski sales, junior alpine binding sales grew 18% in dollars. Through November, junior binding sales totaled approximately 44,000 units, only 5,000 units fewer than the number of junior skis sold in the same period.

The alpine pole category is up 10% in dollars over last season.

Nordic Gains

After a slow start last season, the Nordic ski equipment category is showing an increase of 11% in dollars this season over last. Nordic skis (up 2% to $2.9 million), boots (up 13% to $2.7 million), bindings (up 14% to $1.1 million) and poles (up 37% to $724,000) all experienced dollar inclines.

Last season's early snow in the West may be playing a factor in the slipping sales (dollars down 13%) of Telemark ski equipment. Sales of Telemark skis and bindings dropped in dollars 22% and 26%, respectively. Telemark boot sales ended the August-November period up 1% with sales at $911,000.


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Sporting goods industry
Specialty retailers


integrated systems
dollar sales
alpine skis
ski systems
boot sales

Christine Martinez

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