Resort Retailers: More Snow, Better Business

NEW YORK — For resort retailers across the country, success this season has depended on one factor: snow.

Storeowners who have experienced favorable weather told Footwear News that sales and traffic have been steady.

“We’re optimistic. As long as we keep good snow, we should have a decent winter,” said Axel Wilhelmsen, owner of Axel’s, a luxury clothing and shoe store in Vail Colo.

In Aspen, Colo., Patti Patterson, owner of Bloomingbirds, said sales got off to a strong start this year, although traffic has declined in recent weeks due to the decrease in international tourists.

The retailer said shoppers were looking for stylish snow boots from the Aquatalia and Tecnica brands, in particular.

“I don’t see as much ‘I’m going to think about it.’ People are buying more and they’re buying more than one pair,” said Patterson. “We had early snow and we are one of the few areas that does have it.”

Prospect, a clothing and shoe store in Park City, Utah, has benefited from the influx of shoppers attending the Sundance Film Festival. In addition, it also is seeing more visitors from nearby states without snow. “Boots this year, from Sorel and Addington especially, have been doing well,” said owner Casey Crawford.

Sorel product and heavy winter backcountry boots were performing well at Jackson Hole, Wyo.-based Teton Village Sports, where business has been up from the same time a year ago.

The area recently was named the top ski resort in the U.S., which has helped boost traffic, according to manager Justin Burkhart.

While the mood was bright in some markets, retailers in Vermont and California ski spots are having a tough season.

Lake Tahoe, Calif., for example, is experiencing a major drought.

At Tahoe Sports Ltd., a large ski outfitter, footwear buyer Kim Aitken, said business has been down after a disappointing season last year.

“There has been absolutely no weather-driven business at all,” said Aitken. “We have people canceling vacations because there is just no snow. There are fewer people in town and fewer people walking in the door.”

Aitken said the store would have to consider additional markdowns for merchandise it won’t carry next season.

Across the country in Killington, Vt., resorts are also experiencing a lack of winter weather.

Still, Tracy Wilson, soft goods buyer and manager at Peak Ski Shop there, said sales have been stronger than expected.

“Despite the lack of snow, we are actually feeling like consumer confidence is up,” said Wilson. “We like going in a little lean and we’ve sold through quite a bit of our product. We probably won’t reorder when we run out, but that’s just how we operate.”