Industry News:

Skate Sales Fall ... But Not That Much

Industry Types Think Maybe They've Hit Bottom

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Maybe it's the way skate makers are reacting to the latest U.S. sales figures.

According to a new SGMA report, U.S. skate sales declined again this year, but the size of the drop was the smallest in nearly a decade.

SGMA estimates that skate makers sold $113 million worth of inline skates in the United States last year.

That's 10 percent less than the year before (when sales were $125 million). But small potatoes compared to the 30 percent drop of 2003.

Hit the Bottom?

SGMA says industry sources believe the market may be stabilizing. But nonetheless it expects skate sales to fall another $6 million this year.

To reverse the trend, the inline industry needs to attract new skaters, SGMA says. "Since inline skates tend to be well-made, durable and comfortable, many skaters are content to use the same pair for many years," the report said. "New skaters are therefore a key market."

But that market has been shrinking.

An American Sports Data report estimated that there were 4.8 million new skaters in 2000. But by 2004, the number had dropped to 2.1 million.


One thing that may hurt skating—at least in the long run—was last year's gutting of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Under pressure from the Bush administration, Congress cut its financing by two-thirds (from $98 million to $28 million).

Local governments draw on the fund to help finance new multi-use trails. (But, as one reader pointed out, the fund is only a small source of financing for the new trails. Most of the money comes from the Intermodal Transportation Bill.)

Olympic Boost?

One thing that may help the industry is this month's Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

The prominence of former inline champions, like Chad Hedrick, could give a boost to skate sales.

Not a Very Good Year

SGMA's State of the Industry report describes 2005 as a "good" year for the sporting goods industry. But the review isn't glowing.

It said most growth came in the fashion end of the business: sports apparel and athletic footwear. Makers of exercise machines also did well.

But "it was tougher going on the equipment side of the industry with most segments performing at or below the level of the economy," the report said.

Companies that reportedly struggled included those involved in team sports, golf, bowling, billiards, skating and outdoor activities.

Talk about this story!

(posted on Feb. 2, 2006)


Related reading

• Go to SGMA press release.

Skate maker sales, U.S.:
1996 - $625

1998 - $418

2000 - $255

2001 - $230

2002 - $208

2003 - $145

2004 - $125

2005 - $113* (estimate)

2006 - 107* (projection)

(Source: SGMA International 2006 State of the Industry report)



Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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