Winter equipment sales start sluggish |

Winter equipment sales start sluggish

Retailers optimistic snow will draw buyers

Blythe Terrell

Eleven-year-old twins Will and Lily Petersen, of Steamboat Springs, try on ski boots Wednesday at Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare.

— Mountain gear sales have been sluggish, folks at retail outlets say, but they expect business to pick up when snow starts falling.

“It’s been going really slowly, to sum it up,” said Kelly Hanna, assistant manager at Christy Sports. “Rentals have been really busy. : People who normally would be coming in to buy have been renting, and people really aren’t buying any hard goods or soft goods.”

The city of Steamboat Springs’ most recent sales tax figures back up that assessment. September collections for sporting goods were down 32.5 percent compared with September 2007. Profits decreased from $46,882 to $69,494.

Ski Haus Manager Murray Selleck said people were more hesitant to buy but that the store still saw steady traffic. The mild weather has kept customers at bay, he said. Several retailers said a good snow would rally customers.

“People are definitely interested, and they know winter will kick in with a vengeance at some point,” Selleck said.

Business also is slower at the snowboard shop The Click, Manager Philip Johnston said.

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“I think it’s the same reasons as anywhere in the country,” Johnston said. “The economy and also small lack of snow right now. I think if it dumped, business would pick up.”

The customers who do come in are going for anything “rocker” and easy-to-ride banana technology, he said.

At Christy Sports, Hanna said customers were sticking to the basics rather than buying whatever catches their eye.

“What they’ve been looking for are smaller things,” she said. “They’re just getting gloves instead of getting gloves, a hat and a jacket.”

Hanna said Tuesday that she already was seeing tourists, which was a surprise. Straightline Manager Daren Mangiaracina said his store also was serving visitors.

“I did a good amount of rentals in here today for the Thanksgiving weekend, which is good,” Mangiaracina said. “We’re a small shop, and I probably did 25 rentals today. : I’d say the rentals, starting, was pretty on track, and then I’d say sales have been, they’ve been down a little bit. I think it’s pretty typical this time of year.”

Straightline will offer 25 percent off its merchandise this weekend, he said.

“I think that will be kind of the telltale start for us,” Mangiaracina said. “It’s hard to know.”

He said he expected rentals to increase this year because of added airline baggage fees.

Hanna said Christy Sports started buzzing as opening day approached.

“Since the middle of last week, it’s been picking up a lot,” she said. “We’ve also seen a lot of people coming in looking for something bigger and leaving with something smaller because it doesn’t quite fit into their budget.”

The retailers were optimistic.

“Once the snow starts to fly, we expect things to pick back up,” Hanna said. “I think there’s going to be an upturn to it; it just hasn’t quite happened yet.”