The little snow is causing problems for Edelweiss Sport in Gstaad.
Hiking boots instead of ski boots: The mild winter spoils the business of the sports shops, which make a particularly large living from the sale or rental of winter sports articles.
Many smaller entrepreneurs are coming under pressure. For example in the Bernese Oberland. “We had the worst start to the winter in years and as a result around 30 percent less sales,” says Gusti Oehrli (60), owner of Edelweiss Sport in Gstaad BE. “We can’t make up for that this season.” The rental and sale of ski equipment in the shop are equally affected. He hears the same from the other sports retailers in town.
The Swiss downhill legend Oehrli has been running his sports shop for 25 years. “We had more people in Gstaad than we ever had before,” he explains. But many families have only rented skis for the children, but because of the bad conditions they have not skied themselves.
Improvement seems a long way off. Normally, new guests should be arriving in Gstaad by now. But Oehrli fears that some will think differently: “Sales are currently collapsing completely.” Even bringing the discount campaign forward would not help: “If there are no people there, you can do whatever you want. If we gave away the goods for free, we might be able to give away two pairs of skis a day at the moment.” But discounts would not be an option either: His business bought the sports goods at a high price, and the main season for earning money is short.
The current winter reminds Oehrli of the year 2016. Back then, too, the lack of snow ruined business. “Some bad winters can be used by businesses that have been in business for a long time. However, as soon as something like this accumulates, we have a problem.”
Price promotions necessary
The situation is hardly better in eastern Switzerland. “The sales business has not been satisfactory so far,” states Ramon Wehrli (34), owner of Beat Sport with branches in Widnau SG, Buchs SG and Wildhaus SG. The clientele is missing because there is no snow to be seen far and wide and therefore there is hardly any desire for winter sports. “As of January 5, around 20 percent of sales are missing compared to last season,” Wehrli sums up.
Seasonal rents were about the same as last season. This is because, according to Wehrli, many book their seasonal rentals at the end of October or the beginning of November. Nevertheless, the rental business as a whole is also affected. “The daily rental business is miles away from last season at the moment,” says Wehrli.
So the sports retailer resorts to price campaigns. “Otherwise, this does not correspond to our business model, especially not at this time,” complains Wehrli.
The fact that activities are being shifted from winter sports to “autumn” activities such as hiking and biking offers some relief. The mechanics at Beat Sport’s bike workshops are busier than they were this time last year.
The higher the better
Higher areas have it better. This is also reflected in the sports shops. Nico Pesko (42) from the sportswear store of the same name in Lenzerheide GR reports that sales between Christmas and New Year are “almost at the same level as the previous year”, with a minus of only 2 percent. The rental is going “surprisingly well” and is satisfactory given the circumstances. Price campaigns are not necessary, especially since the season has only just started.
In Saas-Fee VS, too, the sports shops have no reason to complain. “We started the winter just as well as last year,” says Patrick Fux (47) from Cesar Sport, who runs three sports shops in town with his family. Thanks to the high degree of snow reliability, there is even more activity on the ski slopes in Saas-Fee this winter than in the already strong last season.
The cash registers are ringing in both rental and sales: According to Fux, foreign guests in particular like to rent skis or snowboards in the ski destination. “Guests from Switzerland who drive regularly prefer to buy the equipment.”