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While I was on my trip to Tampa, I missed the Surfside Sports annual Snow Carnival, a sale and festival that seems to attract the whole industry. I thought I'd check in with Surfside co-owner Duke Edukas to see how the event went and how he is expecting snow sales to go this season.
I also asked him about sales overall this fall and if any new snow products are resonating with shoppers.
But first, I thought I'd add some overall statistics about the 2007 snow season from the Snowsports Industries Association's website in case you haven't seen them.
Snowboarding participation: Fell 2.7 percent to 5.1 million participants
Total number of skier/snowboarder visits: rose 9 percent to 60.1 million
Products purchased by consumers at snow sports specialty stores: up 4.6 percent to $1.9 billion
Online sales: rose 45 percent to $491.7 million
Number of snowboards sold (in units): down 3 percent to 297,278
Number of softshell parkas sold (in units): up 18 percent to 236,599
Number of helmets sold (in units): up 11 percent to 686,366
Now, back to Duke. Here's his report from the ground level.
"Snow sales last year were ‘healthy.' Started out later than I would of hoped, but all in all, a decent year.
"I ordered about the same amount of inventory this year as last.
"(For overall Surfside sales), September 2008 was our worst month so far. We were down about 10 percent. October wasn't easy, but we were equal to last year. For November, it's too early to tell. If the weather turns cold, I expect to be even to 10 percent down from last year.
"Holiday? It will be interesting to say the least.
"The snow carnival went great! We sold tons of stuff and had a ton of customers and industry folk here as well. It was just refreshing to see people buying stuff again, especially in these economic times. All of my friends and associates in the industry were stoked to see that people were still amped about snowboarding, and our industry in general.
"Some ‘notables' who were here most of the day: Richard Woolcott, Jason Steris, Billy Anderson, Tom Ruiz, Dutch Shultz, Danny Geary, and the entire Volcom team, Don Dyer, and Mike Carter were slinging the Electric Vibe. Tom Holbrook, Mo-daddy, Willy Morris, and the Quiksilver team, Steve Vandoren from Vans, everyone from Vestal, LV's whole team from Burton, including Dave Downing, and Kevin Meehan (Analog).
"As far as the snow business goes, a good friend of mine, Steve Brock, sent me a very encouraging bar-graph showing the snow industry all the way back to 1973- Present. The graph shows the economy, the amount of snowfall, and in-store customer visits. The graph goes on to show how little the snow business was affected by a bad economy, and how much it was affected by the amount of snowfall in a given year.
"It's still too early to tell, with the crazy temperature fluctuations we've been having here in So. Cal. Cold one day, hotter than hell the next. There have been some changes in some of our ordering. I'm being careful about accepting later shipments, but I really feel if we get the snow, we will sell the product. There are fewer and fewer quality snow retailers out there right now, and those of us who ‘do it right"\' should come out ahead.
"Consumers are looking for a deal, and our margins are taking a little bit of a hit, but all in all, anyone who walks into our store and sees the selection we have, knows that they can find anything their heart desires involving snowboarding.
Some of the new and exciting things this year: Number one would have to be reverse-camber, or rockered snowboards. ... These boards have Rocker, kind of like a surfboard, instead of camber. These boards are just like riding a surfboard on the snow! All the turning is done with your back foot, and they are very forgiving. These boards are flying off the racks at record paces. Led by Mervin Manufacturing, makers of Lib Tech, and Gnu. Burton also recognizes the value of this new design with their ‘Hero' and ‘Con-Dom' models, along with models from Never Summer, and a couple of models from Rome.
"Burton has expanded their limited ‘ICS' system from the ‘Un-Inc' boards, changing the name to ‘The Channel' to many of their boards this year. This system involves their ‘EST' binding, and has had great reviews from many of our employees that have ridden them.
On the soft-goods front: "Burton, Volcom, 686 and Quiksilver have been performing well, and technical fleece from Neff, Volcom, and Burton have been doing well as always.
Accessories: "Burton, Dakine and Celtic gloves have been well received. Skull Kandy headphones sell to just about everyone, including non-snowboarders. Smith helmets are proving themselves once again, with great-fitting and functioning protective headwear."