The European market situation for winter sports products is improving, judging from an online survey of sales and order trends that SGI Europe conducted at all levels of the supply chain at the international level earlier this week. In general, producers, distributors and retailers all expect higher orders for the next autumn/winter season, auguring well for the business climate at the Ispo Munich show starting this Sunday, although the present selling season has been worse than a year ago until now.

While the season is not quite over yet, retail sales have been particularly poor in the sports apparel segment, probably because of unseasonably warm temperatures in the last few months. Out of the 200-plus participants in our survey, 37.7 percent spoke of a sales decline in their own countries or inEuropegenerally as compared to the 2011/12 autumn/winter season. Only 21.1 percent said that apparel sales went up. Another 25.7 percent said they were stable, and 15.4 percent gave no replies.

Sales have been a little better in the areas of sports footwear and equipment. A decline was reported by only 28.2 percent of the respondents, compared with increases for 22.3 percent of the sample and stability for 23.5 percent of the panel. The remaining 25.9 percent of the participants gave no replies, probably because they don't handle this product category.

When it comes to sports equipment, the responses showed a decline for 25.6 percent of the sample. An equal number of respondents spoke of stability and increases, with both representing 23.3 percent of the sample. The balance of 27.9 percent gave no answers.

It may be hard to match the good figures of a year ago at retail for the first quarter of this year, but nevertheless, distributors' and retailers' inventories are said to be relatively low, and their propensity to order more for the next season is high, based on our survey.

A good 34.6 percent of the respondents said they were expecting to place or to receive higher orders of sports clothing for autumn/winter 2013/14 than one year ago, while 28.4 percent predicted lower orders and 22.8 percent spoke of stability.

A similar picture came out of the survey for orders trends in sports footwear and equipment. Higher orders of sports shoes were planned for 26.9 percent of the respondents, versus lower orders for 20.6 percent of them and stable orders for 26.9 percent.

In the area of equipment, 29.4 percent predicted higher orders and 21.9 percent said they would be lower, while 25.6 percent indicated that they would be stable.