Here’s a statistic for snowmobile dealers to enjoy: North American sales of parts, garments and accessories increased by 25 percent in the 2007-‘08 season, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA).
Ed Klim, president of ISMA, says the increase likely had to do with a better riding season. “People get the old snowmobile out of the garage and got it fixed up,” he said. Dealers he talked to said sales of late ‘90s parts were high as riders dusted off the old iron.
Tom Sermersheim, Yamaha’s product line manager for snowmobiles, says Yamaha’s PG&A sales were in line with the North American average. Hard parts were definitely at that mark; accessories were up about 20 percent, he says.
Mark Gilleland, owner of Mark’s Outdoor Sports Inc. in Alamosa, Colo., says his PG&A sales were up in the 25-percent range. He says the dealership saw especially strong part sales. “We did a lot of repairs, probably because people were out riding more,” he said.
Parts also were the biggest seller for Ingles Performance in Phoenix, N.Y., though owner Robin Ingles says PG&A sales remained flat during the 2006-‘07 season.
ISMA tracks PG&A sales as an aggregate number, and doesn’t break out individual sales areas, however Klim thinks the 25-percent increase was across the board.
“This is absolutely reflective of our sales,” said Sandy Scullion, vice president of Ski-Doo’s parts, accessories and clothing division. “The accessories and parts season was amazing.”
Scullion says accessory sales have been growing 15 percent for the past five years and that snowmobile soft-good sales, while lower in percentage than parts and accessories, makes up three-quarters of BRP’s overall garment sales.
The increase does not include overseas markets, but Scullion says BRP’s PG&A sales in Russia grew at an even higher rate. Sales in Scandinavia were flat. The increase tracks the PG&A sales of the snowmobile manufacturers, and does not include the aftermarket. “I’m sure they’re tracking the same as we are,” he said.
Ron Bentzinger, snowmobile product manager for national distributor Western Power Sports in Boise, Idaho, says the company saw strong sales in accessories and apparel. Hard parts remained consistent.
Jess Farr, president of Castle Sales Co. in Green Bay, Wis., saw increases in segments of the company’s garment line. The company sold out of most products.
“The increase we saw were items that sell in relation to snowfall,” he said. “Our jackets, whether it snows or not, always sell. Snowmobilers want to look like snowmobilers at all times. It’s the bibs, the boots, the gloves and the helmets that were more in demand this year.”
Scullion says an aggressive launch of PG&A items for Ski-Doo’s XP-chassis snowmobiles was well-timed. He said at order-time in 2007, his department had 212 different SKU items related to the XP chassis; it took three years to reach that SKU total for the REV-chassis machines.
“The XP accessories were the main driver of the volume because we had so many units in that platform,” he said “Accessory sales are always driven by the current model year. Yes, there was some volume in the REV, but nowhere near the XP. We had a tough time following through with demand.”
With an unpredictable variable such as weather, manufacturers and distributors need to use savvy with orders and production.
“It’s a crapshoot,” Bentzinger said. “We have sales histories that get us close, but with the weather, you get what you get and make the best out of it. We watch the trends and order as quickly as we see the trends, but at that point, it falls on the manufacturers’ ability to fill the orders.”
Bentzinger says the company was fortunate its manufacturers were able to respond quickly to stocking changes. “There were very few instances that we were out [of a product],” he said.
That type of turnaround is more difficult for Farr, who does manufacturing in Asia and places his season orders in February. “By the time we see that big spurt of business in, say, late November, if I place an order, I won’t get product back until March,” he said. “We order based on the fact it’s going to snow. Of course, we have to be intelligent about it, then hope for the best and adjust accordingly.”
The Coming Season
Scullion said his ’09 orders, which have already been placed, were up “big time.”
“It’s difficult to say if the snowmobile business will grow like last year. PAC is driven by unit sales, and we saw some increases,” Scullion said. “The winter we had last year shows that business is healthy.” Product trends on Scullion’s radar include technical riding gear and products that integrate into the vehicles.
Gas prices also might weigh into PG&A sales for the coming season. “I think the price of gas and economy are going to stimulate sales, actually,” Bentzinger said. “People who buy a new sled every year or every other year will be more inclined to spend money on performance items instead of purchasing a new unit.”