Early season sales point to brisk ski season

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Pre-season snow sports sales increased 2 percent in equipment sold and 1 percent in dollars spent at more than 1,200 snow sports retailers nationwide.

So far this fall, consumers purchased $307 million in snow and ski equipment. And it isn’t hope of heavy snow falls and bluebird powder days leading the sales increase. Instead, analysts at SnowSports Industries America, a trade group for the snow industry, chalks up the early sales to pent-up demand.

Sales through September were at a four season high, the industry says, with notably strong sales in alpine equipment and accessories.

At the end of the last snow season, inventories were up 14 percent in accessories and 30 percent in equipment and apparel. This season the sales are much healthier and lower-than-expected invenotirs show that consumers are expecting better snow conditions.

“In general, participants are saying, ‘It can’t be worse than last season,’” the report said. “Consumers aren’t going wild, but they are buying.”

Specialty shop sales fell to $150 million in the August-September period, with sales down 3 percent in equipment, 2 percent in apparel and 7 percent in accessories.

However, carryover sales from the 2011 season accounted for 34 percent of early-season sales this year.

Chain store sales were flat at $72 million, even though equipment sales were down 19 percent in pre-season buying. Chain stores have limited equipment offerings. Apparel sales brought in $39 million for chain stores.

Online sales seem to be where the market is – sales over the Internet were up 11 percent in dollars sold to $85 million and up 19 percent in amount of equipment sold.

Other trends:

– Alpine ski equipment sales are up 5 percent in units and 2 percent in dollars though September.

– Snowboard equipment sales are down 4 percent in units and 6 percent in dollars to a four-seadon low of $26 million.

– Cross country equipment sales suffer from last season’s snow drought, down 9 percent in units sold and 20 percent in dollars sold to $1.7 million.

– Apparel sales make up more than 40 percent of all snow sports’ retail sales, but fell 2 percent in August and September.

– Accessories sales increased 4 percent in units and 7 percent in dollars – things like helmets, luggage, gloves and base layers are all selling well, the report said.