Columbia Sportswear recorded excellent figures for its 2011 fiscal year, when sales soared by 14 percent to $1.694 billion. For the fourth quarter alone, turnover was up by 15 percent and reached $526.1 million. Net profit was up by 40 percent to $36.7 million for the same period. For the full year, net profit jumped by 34 percent to $103.5 million.
By brand, the overall winner was Sorel, one of the footwear brands of the group, whose sales jumped by 68 percent to $150.3 million for the full year, outpacing Mountain Hardwear, which still booked a nice increase of 17 percent to $142.3 million. The core Columbia brand was up by 10 percent, reaching $1,391.5 million for the full year.
By geography, the biggest increase was reached in the Latin American and Asia-Pacific region (LAAP) with growth of 29 percent to $341.0 million, followed by the EMEA region, where sales soared by 24 percent to $275.4 million. According to Tim Boyle, president and chief executive of the company, Sorel in Europe was one of the driving engines behind the growth (more on this brand shortly). The U.S. was up by 8 percent to $948.0 million. Traditionally one of its strongest single markets, Canada peaked by 11 percent to $129.6 million.
In terms of categories, footwear was up by 23 percent for the fourth quarter and reached $126.1 million. For the full year, the jump in shoe sales was even higher and peaked by 33 percent to $359.1 million. All other categories – led by apparel – increased by 13 percent for the fourth quarter and by 10 percent for the entire year respectively.
In a conference call, Boyle was extremely pleased by the development of the Columbia brand's distribution channels. He stated that specialty outdoor retail has again become the best channel for Columbia in the U.S. for the first time in a decade. This says that the brand's massive efforts in innovation and product development was appreciated by the core dealers who again see Columbia as a technical brand of outdoor apparel, footwear and equipment.
For the current year, Columbia expects a modest single-digit growth and a slight improvement in its operating margin compared with 2011. This includes measures for cost containment that have been implemented to keep the cost for sales, general and administrative expenses down. The company points out that sales are stronger toward the fall/winter season while operational costs are more equally spread over the whole year, which means that the profitability pattern is highly seasonable.
For the first quarter of 2012, Columbia Sportswear expects a low increase in sales of 1 percent compared with the $333.1 million in the first quarter in 2011 and an approximate decrease of 60 basis points in gross margin.
Meanwhile, Boyle has promoted Adrienne Moser to be vice president for global apparel merchandising and design for the Columbia brand, replacing Sue Parham, who has left the company. Moser most recently served as general manager of Columbia's apparel merchandising. Before joining the company, she was with Patagonia for 14 years, where she ended as head of merchandise. In between, she was also one of the founders and chief operating officer of Nau, the Portland-based marketer of sustainable apparel.