What are your expectations of consumer spending on big-ticket winter equipment, and how have early-season sales been?

District Voices

Published January 1, 2005  | January 2005 issue

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It's been a slower year than the last couple. But as far as our snowmobile sales are going right now, they're pretty average. We'd like it to be better but [it could always be better]. I would say within the last couple days, going into next week, it's going to pick up, especially for clothing, the smaller four-wheelers, smaller dirt bikes, stuff like that—for kids. Christmas normally has nothing to do with the big-ticket items. What we see is we've got snow now. That's what we wanted to see.
Don Kind, Sales
Scooter's Motor Sports Inc.—Marquette, Mich.

It is very apparent that there's a very optimistic mood toward winter sports, winter activities, right now. I think it's optimism on the consumers' part. They think they've got a little money to spend, they're wanting to buy good equipment. I think the high-end equipment is easy to sell right now. We've seen it unlike we've probably seen for about seven or eight years. We always have an uptrend in business this time of year, depending on how early the snow comes.
Larry Merkel, Owner
Round House Ski and Sports Center—Bozeman, Mont.

We've had a tremendous year in hindsight. It's on the perception of snow that we sell pickup plows, because the season is over by the end of December. October and November are our two biggest months. We had a good season ... pickup sales have to be strong, and they were. You have to have units to put plows on and plow-trucks were plentiful and reasonable with the rebates that the various manufacturers put on them. And I guess there was a perception that there is going to be some snow this year, so we had pretty strong sales.
Randy Knadle, Co-owner
Michael's Truck Equipment Inc.—La Crosse, Wis.

The snow blowers, that's greatly dependent on the weather, and right now we don't have any snow ... so we've only sold a couple of snow blowers. Most of your snow blower sales have to be done before Christmas. If you don't have them sold by the first of the year, most likely you won't get them sold, because most people will not spend a thousand bucks on a blower that they know they could not have to use after February. If we'd have had a bunch of snow we'd probably have been sold out already. [P]ricewise, I don't think people are afraid to spend.
Robbie Rice, Manager
Ace Hardware—Minot, N.D.

The drought is certainly affecting the snowmobile sales. We're not sure why, but ATV sales are up again this year. We think that maybe that's due to the price of beef on the hoof. The ranchers that have cattle are selling them and getting a good price for them, and we're seeing them come in and buy all-terrain vehicles. Our all-terrain vehicle market here in this part of South Dakota is primarily driven by agricultural customers, and this is the time of year that cattlemen sell their cattle.
John Langdell, Co-owner
Outdoor Motor Sports—Spearfish, S.D.

It's not a consumer confidence issue with a snowmobile; it's 'Is there snow?' ... [Early season sales are] on par with the last few years; it's been down for five years because of snow conditions, but we're within a couple percentage points of where we were last year. ... We want to see a 10 percent increase in retail activity with normal snow. ... All the reports we're looking at right now, they don't tell you a lot until you get through December and then you have a pretty good gauge of where you're going to be.
John Tranby, Marketing Manager
Arctic Cat Inc.—Thief River Falls, Minn.

Editor's note: Interviews were conducted in early December.