BoardsportSource Issue #118 Nov/Dec 2023

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Winter is almost upon us, as we leave a summer behind the industry will be only too pleased to forget. Nevermind the issues specific to our industry, the general economic picture continues to create turmoil in the business environment which for decades had been benevolently predictable. The tail winds of covid, followed by a ramp up of inflation from historic lows, a war in Ukraine and now the Gaza / Israel conflict all on top of continued global warming and the emergence of AI. Whoever can figure their way through this spaghetti junction without any hiccups will be a god. The fact is we are at a level of instability that most of us have not experienced before. So given this general economic uncertainty we can expect a cautious consumer, but at least they are still out there practicing the sports they love and buying product.

But it has all become a tale of two seasons, all the summer hardgoods categories which did well in covid are now in a very difficult situation whilst those winter hardgoods that did badly in covid are now in a relatively good situation.

After all this negative general economic news let’s start with the winter, where the business
in Europe is feeling more positive. Even though last winter was not the best by any means, snowboard hardgoods sold well and with minimal stocks following the covid hiatus, shelves across Europe were pretty empty by the end of the season. For the 2023/24 prebook the figures were almost exactly the same as the year before, so yet again the industry was conservative with its ordering, with little to no surplus bought in. This has enabled the winter hardgoods industry in general to be in the most robust health that it has been in for many years. Obviously this could quickly turn around if the snow is late or patchy this season, but the industry itself has done all it can to ensure its on a good financial footing.

This is all in contrast with summer where a combination of factors have created markets with masses of oversupply and the heaviest discounting anyone can remember. Right now it’s all about survival thorough the winter for most summer hardgoods businesses. Cashflow is the big problem for many brands, distributors and particularly retailers, as they struggle to stay afloat through their quiet season. The strength of next spring/summer business is open to debate – some are talking of light at the end of the tunnel whilst others believe next autumn will be the first return to normal for business. For soft goods the summer was kinder even if the season was shorter, with both skate and surf apparel selling better than expected. Likewise, product categories associated with travel such as backpacks, luggage, board bags and sunglasses all had a good summer season as the post covid travel bug continued.

So, welcome to our first winter issue where we look at what’s new out there next winter in the binding, boot, splitboard, goggle and technical backpack markets. Our Big Wig interview is superstar Gigi Rüf with his off the wall attitude to life and business. Now, here’s a man whose been around long enough to have seen it all. With all this unpredictability around new opportunities are continuously to be found, just ask our ten brand profiles in this issue. Last but not least our last minute market intelligence news is the early signs are winter hardgoods sales are going well. So looks like another Christmas of good cheer.

Long Live Going Sideways,
Clive Ripley
Guru

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