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High Hopes Prevail for Another Strong Winter Season

Following a strong 2018-19 winter season that saw snow industry retail sales of apparel, footwear and accessories climb 7 percent to $6.3 billion, the NPD Group has uncovered retail optimism for the current 2019-20 season that has already seen cold temps and some snow from coast-to-coast.

The West (+11%) followed by the Northeast (+9% ) saw the biggest sales increases last year as snow specialty retailers generated an 8 percent increase in overall sales to approximately $3 billion, followed by a 5 percent gain for snow chains to approximately $2 billion and an 8 percent sales improvement for snow internet-only retailers. Among the three large categories, winter apparel sales increased 8 percent to $4.1 billion; equipment sales were 7 percent higher to $3.1 billion; and sales of accessories slid 8 percent to $0.2 billion, with 90 percent of the drop attributed to the sunglass category, NPD’s Julia Day said.

With specialty snow retailers already reporting strong early fleece sales this fall, the 2018-2019 apparel business was dominated by the $1.5 billion outerwear category, up 7 percent with $96 million more in year-over-year sales. Sales of insulated outerwear, where the average selling price was about $200, were 5 percent higher at $769 million. The “sweet” retail spot for insulated outerwear last season was $200-$299, up 14 percent year-over and accounting for 26 percent of all segment sales. From a brand perspective, four generated double-digit increases in units in 2018-2019: Patagonia (+33%), Obermeyer (+50%), Arc’teryx (+20%) and Burton (+52%). Private label insulated outerwear recorded a 52 percent increase in units.

Within winter sports equipment, snowboard segment retail sales rose 13 percent last winter to $358 million, fueled by 14 percent growth in boards and a 12 percent increase in boots. Smaller brands and women’s fueled the growth. Women’s snowboard sales were 24 percent higher year-over-year as the fourth through 10th-ranked brands drove 70 percent of the category’s sales expansion compared to 7 percent from the Top 3 snowboard labels. Meanwhile, snow goggle sales rose 16 percent during the 2018-19 winter season to $176 million as 1.7 million units were sold in the snow sports specialty channel and 2.5 million units across all retail outlets.

In a related development, the Snowsports Industries Association is getting back into the trade show business by acquiring the consumer-facing Boston and Denver Ski and Snowboard Expos from BEWI Productions. The transaction is expected to close by year-end, paving the way for the trade group to plan the Fall 2020 events.