SnowSports Industries America (SIA) and The Leisure Trends Group released the most recent RetailTRAK numbers for March 2012, collected from the Point of Sale systems of more than 1,200 snow sports retailers. The snow sports market brought in $3.4B during the 2011/2012 season, $135M less than last season.
This season started strong with plenty of momentum leftover from the record-breaking 2010/2011 season and the promise of another epic winter of La Niña snow, but the repeat never materialized. In fact, the 2011/2012 season may go down as one of the worst on record. December brought sparse snow across the country and the conditions didn’t improve until the third week of January. The lack of snow put a significant dent in sales and in snow sports participation; the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) announced that skier/riders visits were down 17% across U.S. snow sports resorts this season to 51M skiers and riders on the slopes. Resorts brought in fewer visitors and less revenue and visitors bought less equipment, apparel and accessories in the snow sports market.
Snow sports unit sales declined 12% overall this season, including a 17% decrease in units sold through chain stores and a 14% decrease in specialty shops. However, Internet sales did rather well, and increased 10% this year driven by late season equipment and accessories sales. This may indicate that many retailers are using commerce enabled websites to move product when in-shop sales have slowed. Excluding carryover, online unit sales increased 15% through February and March this season, compared to February and March 2010/2011.
End of season inventory levels are having a significant impact on sell-in for next season. Retailers were not able to sell through the gear they purchased from suppliers this season, which drove up costs and reduced cash flow used to purchase product for the 2012/2013 season. At season’s end there were 30% more units in specialty inventories overall. In fact, snow sports specialty retailers ended this season with 41% more equipment units, 46% more apparel units and 27% more accessories units sitting in inventory than at the end of the 2010/2011 season. Suppliers are reporting significant declines in sell-in for next season as retailers struggled to move this season’s gear and manage the costs of carrying unexpected inventory that will surely result in lower margins and fewer profits until the snow begins falling in the 2012/2013 season.