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Limited snow continued to damage retail sales of snow sports gear across the country in January, but the West was hurt the least.

SnowSports Industries America (SIA) said retail sales of equipment, apparel and accessories in the West were down 2.1 percent to $529 million for the sales season that began in late August. Nationally, sales of almost $2.7 billion through the end of January represented a decline of 4.5 percent. The number of individual items sold fell by 12 percent year-over-year.

"January sales brought little relief to a market suffering from lack of snow," said SIA Research Director Kelly Davis, noting "sales are tracking with the weather, with the West holding steady and the Northeast suffering the most."

Sales in the Northeast were down 12 percent in dollar value from the previous August-through-January period, according to data collected from 1,200 snow sports retailers nationwide by The Leisure Trends Group.

Figures for sales in Utah were not available, but the tenor of the SIA report reflected the character of the business cycle at Salty Peaks, a snowboarding-oriented retailer in the Millcreek area of east-central Salt Lake County.

"I don't have any numbers, but from working here, we were definitely down," said Kerri Fukui, a store manager. "We equate it all to the snow — or the lack thereof. I just don't think people get as excited about [snowboarding or skiing] until it starts snowing."

Case in point: After last week's storms, foot traffic in Salty Peaks was "busier than the norm," Fukui said. "As soon as it snows, it gets busy."

The SIA report said sales of snow sports goods were down 16 percent at both the big chain stores and at specialty outlets, such as Salty Peaks.

But "the online sales channel is doing quite well," SIA's Davis said. Unit sales are up 10 percent, while the dollar value of those sales grew 12 percent.

Online sales of Alpine ski equipment did particularly well, she noted, up 24 percent in units moved and 22 percent in dollar value.

Among all types of stores, apparel sales were the strongest between August and January, falling just 2 percent below totals of the same period a year earlier. Equipment sales were down 9 percent, while accessories such as goggles and waxes dropped off 16 percent, the SIA report said.

Among specific products, Davis said, "reverse camber skis were flying out of retail despite a lack of fresh powder," while sales were also good for fat and twin-tipped skis.

"Nordic equipment sales are suffering acutely from lack of snowfall," she added, citing sales that are down 30 percent in number of units and 26 percent in dollar value.

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Retail sales

From August until the end of January, snow sports retailers in the West took in 2.1 percent less revenue than they did in the same period a year earlier:

• Equipment (skis, boots): Up 0.7 percent

• Apparel (coats, gloves): Up 1.1 percent

• Accessories (goggles, wax): Down 7.6 percent

• Total: Down 2.1 percent

Source: SnowSports Industries America

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