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March 27, 2012

The 2011/2012 season will go down as one of the toughest on record for the snow sports market. Scarce snow means slow sales. Unit sales down were 12% through January this season and specialty shop sell-through dropped ten points. On January 31, specialty retailers still owned 573,000 more pieces of equipment than they did a year ago and still had $777M wholesale dollars locked into their inventories. That represents a crippling 30% increase over last season at this time and the greatest end-January amount ever recorded. As bad as it was on the walls and shelves, it was worse on the books. Retailers had an unprecedented $305M (+34%) in open-to-buy dollars still trapped in their equipment inventories. Pre-season orders are expected to be conservative if not downright anemic for the 2012/2013 season.

Mother Nature requires patience, intelligence and strategy in the snow sports business. Down seasons like this one can kill suppliers and retailers who don’t seek out and take advantage of new opportunities. One of those opportunities has emerged in a new urban trend, one that probably won’t grow participation in snow sports, but may extend the image of many snow sports participants to a large group of urban hipsters.

Enter the Urban Woodsman.
Young, urban, white males (about 18-35 years old) are fostering a rugged look that includes a full beard, skinny jeans, flannel, wool, and rugged footwear. They drink whiskey and craft beer, take weekend trips to the woods to foster fire making and axe wielding skills. They are learning to cure meats and work leather but they still eat wings and pizza in their natural environment – the big city. In fact, one of the hottest new shops in NYC, Tribeca specifically, is Best Made Co, specializing in axes.

Source: New York Magazine

This trend represents opportunity in the snow sports market. First, these guys are stealing – or at least borrowing heavily from the core snow sports image; note the flannel, the beanie, the skinny jeans, and the winter boots. Certainly, some of them are skiing or riding but they are not fostering this image because they’re not core riders or skiers, or core anything for that matter. It might be easy to turn your back on them for that reason alone but keep in mind that they have a lot of money and are willing to spend it not only on image, but on experience. In fact, they are conspicuous consumers of experiences. That means they are ready to be sold apparel and accessories and also ready to pay for experiences including skiing and riding weekends in the backcountry, snowshoeing trips, etc.

SIA Research is working to uncover more information about this trend, where it’s taking off fastest and how best to exploit it. We are also looking at women’s trends and female reaction to the Urban Woodsman trend. Look for a full section on trends and opportunities in the 2012 Intelligence Report.

To get more information on trends this season, check out the latest SIA RetailTRAK™ Executive Market Summary produced by the Leisure Trends Group covering snow sports retail trends between August and January this season. This report and many more are available as member benefits at For more information about SIA Research products and services please contact Kelly Davis, SIA Director of Research at, or by phone at 703.556.9020

The psychographics tell us that these men are mostly educated urban dwellers with high paying white collar jobs in categories like advertising and finance. Deep qualitative research indicates that this trend toward a more rugged manly look is a direct response to the growing empowerment of young females. This trend appears to be supplanting and rebelling against the metro-sexual trend of the first decade of this century and is a twist on the “Hipster” look that works in the Occupy Movement. It says, “I’m not a greedy douche, I’m a down-to-earth rugged man” – among other messages. Expect marketing campaigns and entertainment to embrace this trend starting about right now.