Byline: Dan Burrows

NEW YORK — Strong outerwear sales helped propel Columbia Sportswear Co. to record revenues and a better-than-expected bottom line in the first quarter.
For the three months ended March 31, the Portland, Ore.-based sportswear marketer reported a 4.1 percent gain in net income to $9 million, or 22 cents a diluted share. That compares with profits of $8.6 million, or 17 cents, in last year’s first quarter. Earnings per share handily beat Wall Street estimates of 17 cents.
Sales for the quarter grew 3.8 percent to a record $143.3 million, up from $138.1 million a year ago. By category, the winners more than offset the losers. Outerwear sales led the charge, increasing 10.5 percent to $36.7 million from $33.2 million in the year-ago period. Accessories also did well, surging 38.5 percent to $5.4 million from $3.9 million. Footwear sales inched up 1 percent to $20.2 million from $20 million.
As expected, sportswear sales disappointed, dropping 0.1 percent to $80.9 million.
“We are pleased to see strong early demand for our spring apparel, which reflects, in part, an overall improved mood at retail generally,” said chief executive officer Tim Boyle in a statement. “That said, we are cautiously optimistic as we look forward to the fall season. Given the continued uncertainty at retail, coupled with weather risks inherent in our business, we have opted to maintain a fairly conservative stance on our fall outerwear inventory levels. We are positioned to realize some potential high-margin reorder business in the outerwear category, while at the same time limiting our inventory exposure should we be faced with another warm winter.”
Boyle emphasized that the strategy shift in no way changes Columbia’s core business model, but rather is an opportunity to improve gross profit later in the year.
In guidance, Columbia is looking for full-year revenue growth in a range of 2 to 4 percent, with flat to low-single-digit percent growth in net income.

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