A mixed bag for snow sports retail | SummitDaily.com

A mixed bag for snow sports retail

SUMMIT COUNTY – War anxiety and a stagnant economy have befuddled consumer spending, and the snowsport retail business is no exception.

Some ski makers are reporting spectacular sales, and retailers are reaping profits. But there’s a big difference in whether those sales are occurring at the cashier counters of national chains or local specialty shops.

Here’s a quick list to confuse the economics epicurean:

– Recreation chain store sales, in general, were down from the same period last year 4.6 percent from August through January, according to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) retail audit, released this month. And,

– Alpine ski sales (not counting ski/binding systems) were down 5.1 percent in chain stores. But,

– Alpine boot sales were up 21.7 percent. And,

– Snowboard equipment (boards, boots and bindings) sales were up 19.6 percent.

– Apparel sales at chain stores were down 10.1 percent, however, and accessories also dropped by 11.8 percent.

At specialty stores, though, there was a different trend, according to the SIA retail audit:

– General sales were up nearly 8 percent.

– Alpine ski sales were down 6 percent, and boot sales rose 3.4 percent.

– Snowboard equipment sales dropped nearly 5 percent. And,

– Apparel and accessories led the way with an 8.1 percent increase in sales.

Adam Garman, the inventory buyer for A Racer’s Edge in Breckenridge, said technology is the major factor in driving sales. Garman said ski sales in recent years are not what the business used to see, but the emergence of fat and “mid-fat” skis is bringing back buyers.

“People are figuring out the fun-factor of new skis,” Garman said. More and more people are skiing fat skis on a daily basis. I think a lot of the people working in shops figured that out last year and are starting to sell that way.”

The SIA retail audit noted that fat ski sales grew 153.1 percent over last year in the audit period.

Garman said sales at A Racer’s Edge are bucking the trend noted in the audit for specialty shops – sales are good. He said the store’s advantage lies in its racing niche.

“We’ve always been able to sell the race stock product,” he said. “And even more companies are making race stock product available than in the past.”

Precision Ski co-owner Jim Deines said figuring out what’s going on in the ski retail business is further complicated by the difference between numbers of units sold versus dollar sales. Even if unit sales are up, Deines said, profits can be down.

“People are watching their bucks. They’re worried about war,” Deines said. “”Sale’ seems to be the key word everyone’s looking for.”

Several manufacturers have also developed a “hostage” approach, local retailers said. The companies sell skis that work exclusively with plates and bindings the company makes. The packages usually sell for less than what a customer would pay for each item individually, but larger sticker prices and reduced flexibility can turn off some customers.

Specific manufacturers and retailers have reported notable gains. In February, K2 released year-end figures, reporting a 54 percent increase in sales. K2 is also acquiring Rawlings, the baseball glove manufacturer.

Gart Sports announced last month year-end earnings of $1.84 per share. Sales were down in line with national retail trends, but the company acquired Oshman’s and merged with The Sports Authority, making it the largest sporting goods retailer in the country.

The adidas-Salomon Group reported a record fourth-

quarter this month, but ski sales were down 4 percent.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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