Byline: Jennifer Weitzman

NEW YORK — The reappearance of cool late-fall/early-winter weather after several warmer-than-normal fourth quarters helped Columbia Sportswear Co. record double-digit gains in sales and profits in its period, and complete its most successful year.
Bolstered by huge sales gains from outerwear and winter footwear, the Portland, Ore.-based firm reported income grew by 48.1 percent for the three months ended Dec. 31, to $13.5 million, or 51 cents a diluted share. That compares to earnings of $9.1 million, or 35 cents, in the year-ago period.
Strength in the company’s key merchandise categories, as well as in key geographic markets drove sales to increase by 32.4 percent, to $161.9 million.
Tim Boyle, Columbia’s president and chief executive officer, said that due to the high demand, “inventory levels for outerwear and winter footwear across all channels in the U.S. appear lean as we move into 2001.”
For the year, Columbia’s income rose 77.6 percent, to $58.6 million, or $2.22 a diluted share, versus income of $33 million, or $1.29, in the year-ago period. Sales improved 30.7percent, to $614.8 million.
By merchandise category, outerwear sales for the year were up 24.8 percent, to $322.5 million, sportswear sales increased $36.1 percent, to $203 million, and footwear sales grew 55.9 percent, to $68.9 million.
By region, domestic sales grew 28.5 percent, to $438.9 million, Canadian sales increased 25.2 percent, to $63.1 million and all other international sales grew 43.8 percent, to $112.9 million.
Boyle said the firm’s growth strategy for 2001 includes increasing its retail productivity, international growth, further developing its sportswear and footwear businesses and expanding its retail distribution into department stores and specialty footwear retailers.
He added that having lean inventory levels and strong retail sell-throughs during the fall leaves the company “well positioned for the year 2001.”
“Columbia’s financial performance is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Wells Fargo Van Kasper retail analyst Jennifer Black, adding that she expects it to outperform itself during 2001 and 2002.
Black sees a number of growth opportunities for the company, including enhancing its channel productivity by implementing concept shops.
The company said it anticipates gross-margins pressure during the first half, as a result of the euro decline. However, Columbia said it expects revenue growth in the high teens and earnings growth in the mid-teens for the second half.

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