Snowsports Goods Up 4.2 Percent

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McLean, VA, May 22--Late-season snow, sales in snowboard equipment, apparel, accessories and growth in helmet and snowshoe categories are all being credited with a 4.2 percent increase in retail dollars spent on snowsports this past season when compared to the 1998-1999 season. The margin, reported in the latest retail audit prepared by the SnowSports Industries America, marks a recovery from the 7.2 percent deficit in sales reported by retail stores at the end of December. The result is an all-time high of $2.3 billion in retail sales of snowsports merchandise.

The audit, conducted by Leisure Trends of Boulder, Colo., which gets electronic data directly from the registers at a sample of retail stores across the country, shows total sales of $1.8 billion at specialty stores for the season (a net gain of 6.4 percent) and $523 million at chain stores (down by 3 percent). While specialty stores accounted for the overall increase in money spent on snowsports goods, unit sales at chain stores were up by 9 percent.

The difference, according to the report, had to do with a drop in alpine equipment sales of 44 percent at chains (alpine sales increased at specialty shops by 8 percent). Only pole sales were up in alpine categories in chain stores with record sales of snowboard gear being posted. Snowboard sales in chains accounted for 36 percent of the total, up 10 percent from 1998-1999.

The strongest categories in specialty stores were helmets (up 66 percent), snowboard equipment (up 32 percent) and most apparel (up 9 percent overall). Of the specialty stores, retail shops at resorts helped push pole sales up 12.7 percent in units. But resort shops accounted for just 15 percent of all dollars spent on snowsports this past season, down from 19 percent in 1998-1999.

The strong late season also spurred specialty stores to do an effective job in clearing the shelves of old alpine gear and apparel. As a result, the average price of all merchandise sold dropped for the first time in recent history, going from $71.47 in 1998-1999 to $67.77 in 1999-2000. On the upside, said the report, the house-cleaning will leave room for more new merchandise next season.