By  on April 23, 2010

Columbia Sportswear Co. said Thursday that first-quarter profits jumped 33.8 percent as sales advanced at a double-digit pace.

For the period ended March 31, the Portland, Ore.-based vendor said net income totaled $9.2 million, or 27 cents a diluted share, compared with profits of $6.9 million, or 20 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Net sales for the period increased 10.5 percent to $300.4 million versus $272 million a year earlier.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings per share of 21 cents on revenue of $285 million.

Gross margin improved to 42.4 percent of sales from 40.6 percent a year ago because of higher full-price sales and a greater proportion of direct sales.

Sales in the U.S. were up 10.8 percent to $173.2 million, from $156.3 million, and revenue in Latin America and Asia-Pacific grew 21.7 percent to $56.1 percent, from $46.1 million. In Canada, sales increased 22.2 percent to $24.2 million, from $19.8 million, but in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, they slid 5.8 percent to $46.9 million, from $49.8 million.

President and chief executive officer Tim Boyle said on a conference call he was “encouraged” by the “solid start” to the year.

A “stronger consumer spending environment,” aided by favorable spring weather and a 19 percent increase in fall 2010 wholesale backlog, has provided the company with “early momentum,” he said, noting that all three of the company’s brands, Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and Sorel, recorded double-digit increases in revenue.

By brand, Columbia’s sales improved 10.8 percent to $267.7 million, and sales at Mountain Hardwear increased 10.3 percent to $25.6 million. Sorel’s revenue climbed 33.3 percent to $4 million.

The firm said it expects a high-teen percentage increase in second-quarter revenue over last year’s sales of $179.3 million. For the full year, it anticipates sales will grow 12 to 14 percent, or between $1.49 billion and $1.74 billion, driven mainly by gains in fall order backlog, favorable exchange rates and improved direct sales.

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