As usual, we start with an economic and political update and review for 2019, and there are two words that describe it well: chaotic and flat. Chaotic, as we don’t have a stable government and flat, as our economy still struggles to see good growth numbers. By Franz Josef-Hoeller
The government between Lega and Movimento 5 stelle is a collaboration of the past, and we now have a non-elected government between Movimento 5 stelle and the Partito democratico PD. A government which now has to seek a way through as there is not a clear majority in the parliament, which makes it hard to implement new laws or any other action. This is nothing new for Italy as we have been dealing with changing governments for many years, and our political landscape is a constant up and down. 2019 was no exception at all, and people seem bored and angry that the government is more busy wasting time with elections rather than acting and solving serious problems, such us unemployment of the youth, tax pressure, immigration (which is a EU problem overall) or infrastructure renovation for schools, retirement homes and hospitals to name a few.
Boardsport business sees skate hardgoods stable, with some growth numbers with skateboarding trending, whilst sales in clothing and shoes have become slower as competition grows. When talking to retailers, such as Lukas Höller from Sub Skateshop, we notice a clear trend: Kids are dressing more sport and fashion-driven than ever before which makes it harder for skate brands to compete, and the hottest skate brands are often selling B2C which makes the life of a core skate shop harder than ever – they’re now having to compete against sport, fashion and outdoor brands wanting a slice of the cake.
Snowboarding saw a loss of many retailers over the last year, which resulted in the remaining ones getting a little boost while staying strong, but online competition, low margins and overstock on certain categories doesn’t mean easy business overall. When talking to Alex Berger from Fakiestores and Snowpark construction company F-Tech, he sees a big lack of youth work, which would need to be remedied to get the kids more attracted to snowboarding again, especially in the very north where Freestyle and Alpine skiing has become popular again. Youth programs would be necessary to bring the kids on board again as alpine skiing and freestyle skiing are way more active with teachers, schools, races etc. This is something countries like Austria and Switzerland already do but is lacking in Italy at present. A good and positive example is a project called “The Garden” which is a snowboard school from Madonna di Campiglio that brings hundreds of kids to the slopes with snowboarding camps, events etc. We need more of these!
Good growth numbers in snowboarding are seen in the rental section as Nitro rep Ettore Rusina confirms and splitboards from Jones are stronger than ever with older customer audiences, says rep Alex Ricci Picciloni.
Surf business seems stable with good growth numbers in soft boards which are easy to use and a big trend overall, also stand up paddling keeps growing. A milestone for surfing in Italy is the first artificial wave in Milan, which was inaugurated this summer. Alex Ricci Picciloni from ActionSport Agency confirms, they’re seeing a growth in numbers in the surf business especially on mid price range boards as well as boards that are good for beginners.
Overall, we are now hoping for a cold and snowy winter before Christmas as selling on full margin is crucial for many stores in this period of a constantly changing marketplace. See you out there on the slopes and I will be back in 2020.