By  on April 28, 2010

Under Armour Inc. said Tuesday that strong apparel and accessories sales, and its growing direct business, lifted its first-quarter profits 81 percent.

Continuing momentum led the Baltimore-based firm to raise full-year earnings guidance.

The athletic clothing and footwear manufacturer said that, for the three months ended March 31, net income spiked to $7.2 million, or 14 cents a diluted share, from $4 million, or 8 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenues increased 14.7 percent to $229.4 million from $200 million in the 2009 period. Analysts surveyed by Yahoo were looking for earnings per share of 10 cents on sales of $214.7 million.

Gross margin improved to 46.9 percent of sales versus 44.6 percent a year earlier. The improvement was due partially to a 73 percent jump in the company’s higher-yielding direct business, as well as better apparel margins.

Apparel sales jumped 30.5 percent to $172.6 million, from $132.2 million, while accessories sales improved 30.2 percent to $7.5 million, from $5.8 million. Footwear sales lagged 24.5 percent to $43 million from $56.9 million.

“We’re still finding an enormous amount of consumer demand,” chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Plank said on the company call.

The ceo said that, by offering noncompression apparel in addition to its signature compression gear, the brand is open to a broader base of customers, but there’s still work to be done. He identified women’s as one of the company’s “largest opportunities,” and said he hopes for women’s apparel to “someday be larger than the men’s apparel business.”

Under Armour expects full-year earnings to expand between 14 percent and 16 percent, or to between $1.05 and $1.07 a share. Previously it had projected growth of 10 percent to 12 percent in EPS. Annual revenue is now anticipated to increase 13 percent to 15 percent, to between $965 million and $985 million. Analysts had forecasted yearly EPS of $1.05 on sales of $954.4 million.

Shares Tuesday closed at $34.20, down $1.73 or 4.8 percent.

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