Swiss Market Insight April/May 2018

As was the case in many countries in Europe, this winter was prolific in terms of precipitation and snowfall. When you know the importance of these factors for our business you understand that certain people were more serene than they may have been the last few seasons. In effect, it snowed regularly, in large quantities and even at low altitude from December until March without really letting up at all. By Fabien Grisel. 

The result was a visible crack of the whip for everything related to winter sports in all parts of the country; resorts, shops and suppliers all played a part and were well able to work. Unfortunately, not everything was so rosy. Of course, the snow conditions were good to excellent, but since we certainly can’t have everything, as far as nice weather was concerned, there wasn’t much of it to be seen. There were a minimal number of sunny weekends between December and March, which is especially noteworthy since the weather plays an extremely important role in encouraging a maximum amount of people to go to ski resorts. Because of that fact, what could have been a perfect and salutary winter still had a few downsides. As for resort visitor numbers, we can’t forget the beneficial results of a few initiatives undertaken in Switzerland to offer season passes for multiple resorts, like “Magic Pass”, which most certainly contributed greatly to the amount of skiers and snowboarders who came up from the plains to enjoy the mountains this winter. As a result, many professionals active in our sector are approaching the rest of 2018 with smiles on their faces.

The effects of these exceptional winter conditions are multiple, but here is some of what it means for the sales of snowboard gear in Switzerland. While we may have thought that shops would have a record season with extraordinary sales figures and have sold out in January, we realize that the reality of the situation is quite different. For many, sales figures are good, rentals have worked well and sales are decent, but there’s no talk of drastic increases in overall sales or of an exceptional season. The damage done by the last three bad seasons has left some serious scars and one single good season hasn’t been sufficient to reassure everyone. In general, we have noticed that one result is much healthier stock levels and that stores have been able to get ride of lots of old stock, while approaching purchases for 18/19 in a much more relaxed manner. It’s a nice breath of fresh air that is allowing shop owners to have a more positive attitude towards the future, due to the fact that they’ve been able to get their stock and finances, in general, to acceptable levels.

Not all are equal or as sensitive to these fluctuations due to good or bad seasons. We’ve observed that small shops and larger operations don’t evolve in the same manner. Where the former suffer enormously from poor conditions, the latter have an easier time of things, but things change a bit when the winter is a good one. As such, large stores and major players in winter sports have been reporting decent sales figures, while smaller specialized shops have been talking about very good results. The situation is most likely due to the fact that larger operations are more diversified in their offering and benefit from regular in-store traffic no matter the weather forecast, which isn’t necessarily the case of smaller outfits.

The good conditions also allowed prices to stabilize, increased sales numbers and demand, along with decreased stock equals greater price stability. Therefore, this season we’ve also noted a much smaller disparity between sales in Swiss shops and foreign Internet platforms. Obviously, that has been a boon for everyone, decreasing drops in prices, allowing shops to sell goods for their true value and helping increase margins and strengthening local businesses for the future.

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