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A busy SIA got underway Thursday in Denver and despite the disappointing snowfall this season, the mood wasn’t total doom and gloom.
I heard mixed information about how the slow snow year is impacting people. Those retailers that made it out of the recession tend to be some of the stronger operators, who plan conservatively and know how much Mother Nature plays a part in snow sales.
Manufacturers have scaled back production and don’t have as much excess inventory they need to dump. And, so far there does not seem to be mass discounting going on, though many believe that may hit fairly soon. The line I heard over and over is "nobody is panicking - yet."
I did hear from several manufacturers that orders for the season they are showing at the show may be impacted by the slow season this year. Some brands had credit managers on hand to deal with customers struggling to pay the bills this season. Also, negotiations are reportedly underway with larger retailers about what to do with their excess inventory, several people told me, and markdown dollars are a hot topic.
However, some people painted a grimmer picture, and expect there to be some retail and manufacturer casualties after this season.
Given the lack of snowfall – snow cover in the U.S. was 50% lower in December 2011 than December 2010 - SIA reported some relatively good news yesterday. Sales through December reached $2.2 billion, 2% below last season's record sales but above August - December sales in the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 seasons.
Tough categories included goggles, wax and gloves, while apparel and equipment sales fared a bit better.
Specialty store inventories were up 16% overall during this timeframe.
We’ll be back at the show today. See our slide show above for photos from the show floor on Thursday.