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Buying groups on fire as open-to-buy matches sales surge

With the snowsports industry on pace for a record year in retail sales, specialty buying groups are already making dramatic moves to prepare for next fall. SNEWS has the scoop on the aggressive rate of new equipment orders.

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If the three major snowsports buying groups serve as a barometer for how ready retailers are to restock for next season, then the industry should count on a banner year. Wrapping up three days of buying on Wednesday, January 26, 2011, Sports Specialists Ltd. (SSL) and Snowsports Merchandising Corp. (SMC)– who together represent nearly 300 specialty storefronts and $300 million in sales — report a return to the glory days of retail.

“Our open-to-buy will be up 15 to 20 percent,” said SSL president Steve Rogers, adding that this is on top of last year’s 10 percent increase. “Retailers are seeing numbers that reflect the good ol’ days.”

SMC reported a record total of orders placed during its Megadeal Meeting on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 the last day of their annual trade show. “Over $5.8 million of orders were written in a 2 ½ hour time span. This represents a 53 percent increase over last year’s Megadeal Meeting which totaled $3.8 million,” said SMC president Tom Gately.

Gately explained that the Megadeal Meeting is an opportunity for SMC vendors to make a special offer on a product that will represent a core model of SMC stores’ inventory mix for next year. When asked what the increase was attributable to, Gately said, “the increase was definitely due to better offers. Yes, our open-to-buy is going to be up this year but nowhere near 53 percent. Also, our selection committees did a fantastic job of working with our suppliers to create offers that would capture the attention of our buyers.”

Orders also avalanched out of control during buying group Nation’s Best Sports’ order-writing gala Jan 13-16, 2011 at the Convention Center.

“Our shows are writing shows, and this year’s buy was up 30 to 40 percent,” said NBS vice-president Rand Whitney, whose non-profit co-op consists of 85 dealers with 175 storefronts in the snowsports sector.

In all, the stores made more than $400 million in snowsports buys this year, with rocker and flat skis up, helmets and goggles increasing nearly 30 percent, and bindings through the roof, with Marker up 40 percent alone. While its snowsports buys are a drop in the bucket of the group’s $.2.2 billion multi-category buy, which includes outdoor and team sports, NBS continues to penetrate the market. In 2009/10 it bought wares from 95 snowsports brands and this year did big business with more than 130. The group also signed on eight new snowsports retailers this year, with many existing retailers showing up with multiple buyers instead of just one.

“This year’s show was definitely bigger and better,” said eastern sales manager Brian Cotsonas, whose company posted record-breaking orders at the NBS show. “All of our customers were in a buying mood and open-minded towards upgrades and innovation instead of simply being focused on price points.”

– Eugene Buchanan & Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived — just in time for the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!