The 2013-14 snowsports sales data from SIA RetailTrak was reported for the season showing $3.6 billion in snowsports product sales, which is up 4% in units and 7% in dollars. These statistics change with the weather - and that is a literal statement because when the winter has snow particulary in populated regions in the east and central part of the country, the sales statistics increase. Unfortunately, the sales data and everything associated with skiing decreases when there is a lack of snow.
XCSkiResorts.com will not update this industry data in the future so this report is typical of a given year.
Inventories were cleaner so things looked good for 2014-15 in the business. There were record sales for apparel and accessories related to the cold weather. Equipment sales were the highest since 2010-11, which was one of the snowiest years across most of North America in memory. Internet sales continue to surge rising from $808 million in the last year to $867 million this year (7% increase). This good news looks even better when considering the draught in California, which negatively impacted snowboarding statistics and other snowsports meccas such as the Tahoe region and Mammoth Mountain.
Nordic ski equipment sales were up 15% in units and 14% in dollars to $41 million. The women's Nordic equipment category boomed to $6 million, which was a 32% increase in units and a 28% increase in dollars. Again, weather giveth and taketh: for example in the east there was a rainout in the second half of the holiday week and a frigid temperatures with rain in January. The later winter snow was better in the east and central states and that bodes well for the following pre-season.
Previous Year Report
The SIA RetailTRAK numbers for the 2012/2013 season were reported and they are based on total market projections based on data collected from the point of sale systems at more than 1,200 snow sports retailers. In that season, snow sports retail sales reached $3.4B, up compared to sales in the previous season.
For Nordic skiing, the early season statistics were worrisome despite the improved snow conditions and timely snowstorms starting in late December. There was pent up demand and popular wellness perspectives, which when combined with a more consistent snow cover brought good late season increases in participation and sales. First, the positive news has Nordic sales in specialty shops up from last year in dollars and in units sold. Nordic equipment specialty shop sales in the west were substantially up and New England specialty shops also saw an increase in sales. Nordic equipment specialty shop sales in the Midwest were not as strong compared to last year. It must be remembered that the report shows statistics compared to last year and that was a year with a terrible winter considering the lack of snow and warm temperatures.
Many of the Nordic ski areas reaped the benefits from snowstorms during the December holidays, MLK weekend, and President's week. These holiday periods can represent as much as 40% of the annual visitation statistics at a cross country ski area. Jackson Ski Touring Foundation's Thom Perkins commented that "while the December vacation may be significant for visitation, it is much more relevant as a kickoff to establish the mindset to go skiing during the winter." There have been some very exciting reports from cross country ski areas this winter about incredible increases in visitation and equipment sales. And a glimmer for the industry reported by Perkins was that the Nordic retail shop at Jackson had a record year and the ski area visitation boasted the best year in the last decade.
In reviewing Nordic equipment sales statistics August through January across the board (all retail outlets, not just specialty shops) between 2009 and 2013 in the same time frame (Aug-Jan) in general, the sales for this winter were 50% under sales during the great winter of 2010-11 and 5% below last year, which was a terrible winter. The retail report showed that from August through January there were 243,290 units of Nordic ski equipment sold (skis, boots, bindings, and poles) valued at $24,272,153. The final season statistics show a brighter winter for Nordic skiing.
Many retailer inventories were cleaned out between the mid season and late season because February included the longest winter holiday period (President's week and multiple school vacation weeks) and there were better snow conditions across the country. There were also consistent snowstorms in the early spring. While great snow always bolsters the Nordic ski industry, questions remain how the industry can parlay the opportunities such as the widespread wellness perspective or pent up demand from poor previous winters. Additionally, there are American medal expectations in the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, which can result in substantial dividends to the Nordic ski industry if it can get prepared to take advantage. The statisticians tell us that traditionally a good pre-season follows a good snow year, so we should expect optimistic consumers, who are more willing to spend on equipment in the coming fall and the first half of the 2013-14 ski season.
XCSkiResorts.com expresses appreciation to SIA Director of Research Kelly Davis for sharing information from SIA RetailTRAK, which is presented by Snowsports Industries America and Leisure Trends. It is recommended that if you are interested in the most recent data on the snow sports industry, that you contact SIA.