Updated: Christy Sports CEO on Early Snow Season Sales Trends
Editor’s note: We received additional information from CEO Matt Gold, and have added that to the story.
After two boom seasons during COVID, the snow industry environment this season seems very fluid given the extra inventory floating around from summer categories, a slowdown in consumer spending, and the absence of stimulus money.
We reached out to Christy Sports CEO Matt Gold to get his early read about what Christy’s is seeing as the season gets underway.
Christy Sports is one of the snow industry’s biggest accounts with more than 60 locations across Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Montana, and Washington.
How are you feeling about your current snow inventory levels? Are you backed up with spring and/or summer inventories?
Christy Sports CEO Matt Gold: Winter merchandise inventory levels are at a healthy level. The supply chain for the winter sports industry is mostly performing and producing well with only some impacts in Europe from the war.
A vast majority of ski gear is produced in Europe and some components for those finished goods are produced in the Ukraine and in Russia. But manufacturers have largely worked around those problems and we’re in a really good spot with inventory for the ’22-’23 winter season.
Given a rebound in supply chain performance for this past spring and summer and a slowdown in consumer demand, we have more summer inventory than we’ve had in recent years. This allows us to purchase less next summer and balance overall inventory levels.
With regard to spring/summer inventory, does that mean Christy’s will pack and hold that inventory until next season rather than liquidate it?
Matt Gold: Yes. Two of our biggest categories are high-end outdoor furniture and cycling bikes in the summer. The shelf life of these product categories allows us to carry them over, and still be relevant for next season.
Did Christy’s trim and/or cancel original snow orders based on the softer consumer spending this summer?
Matt Gold: Yes, we did trim some.
In the two seasons during and after COVID, consumers were buying early because they were worried about products selling out. Do you get the sense that is happening this season?
Matt Gold: The environment and consumer behavior feels like it has shifted this year. Consumers are less anxious about supply chain issues and their behavior and buying patterns are more similar to pre-pandemic seasons.
Any early season selling standouts from a brand or category perspective?
Matt Gold: We are seeing consumers focus more on products and categories which they need to participate in snow sports, such as hardgoods including skis, snowboards, boots and bindings, as well as accessories including helmets, goggles, gloves and base layers. And early season demand and the outlook for gear rentals in this economic environment is positive.
However, I think the categories which will be under pressure this season are those that consumers perceive as a “want” versus a “need.” That includes apparel, as consumers tend to use last year’s ski wear instead of repurchasing if and when they’re concerned about discretionary spending.
Can you give us some perspective about the size of your business now compared to what it was pre-pandemic?
Matt Gold: Christy Sports was enjoying healthy and sustainable growth pre-pandemic. After the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, we quickly returned to growth mode and achieved record results again last year. We have done this both through organic growth and a steady cadence of acquisitions.
While we have grown financially, what’s more important to us is how this growth benefits our customers with a better and bigger network of locations everywhere you ski and ride in the Rockies and beyond, as well as online.
This growth also provides more career and development opportunities for our passionate and loyal employees. We are grateful that this enables us to do more to help grow the sports we love, give back to our communities and develop sustainability programs.
Since 2021 was a record year, what is the forecast for the current fiscal year? Does Christy expect to match those results this year?
Matt Gold: We are comping on or slightly ahead of last year and expect to continue that trend.
Are you optimistic/pessimistic/neutral about how this season and next will shake out?
Matt Gold: I am cautiously optimistic about this season and wildly optimistic about next season and beyond. Snow sports enjoyed a great surge in popularity and participation in the last couple of years. We are going through an economic cycle which points to some slowdown this season. But the midterm trends for the industry are encouraging, including how young snow sports demographics have become with industry research indicating that 62% of participants are under the age of 34.
This, plus focused industry-wide efforts to make snow sports accessible to a more diverse cross-section of our communities and the continued industry marketing of innovation to elevate the consumer experience, provide exciting go-forward opportunities.
Are there more acquisitions planned this year?
Matt Gold: We always have our antenna probed for add-ons that are a good fit for Christy Sports. We look for places where we can be a good owner for the business and that will add to our network effect of locations, servicing outdoor participants everywhere you ski and ride in the Rockies and beyond.
This year we have undertaken large-scale renovations of two of our flagship stores at the base of Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs resorts, and both of those projects are opening on time for the start of the ‘22-’23 ski season.