Declined in Timberland’s branded apparel and casual footwear brought the company down for the first quarter ended April 3, where total sales fell by 12.9 percent to $296.6 million. Currency differences were worth about $22 million, or 6.4 percentage points of the decline as the dollar strengthened.

Footwear revenues worldwide declined by 10.5 percent to $211.6 million as weakness in casual footwear outweighed the popularity of boots in Europe and Asia. While blaming the soft economic environment for its poor sales of casual shoes, the management noted some encouraging signs in this category in the U.K. and Italy.

A 19.7 percent drop in sales of apparel and accessories to $78.7 million was partly the result of a switch to a licensing model for Timberland’s wholesale apparel business in North America. The company’s SmartWool brand products did well, continuing to grow. Timberland’s boat shoes and its Endurance and Earthkeeper lines also performed well.

European sales were down by 15.0 percent to $140.0 million, but in constant currencies this was a fall of only 1.7 percent. While men’s and women’s boots sold well in Europe, apparel and casual footwear had a decrease overall. Strong growth was recorded in Germany, Austria and part of the Middle East. At company-owned stores, same-store sales rose by 4 percent in Europe during the quarter.

In Asia turnover dropped by 2.9 percent, or by 6.2 percent in constant currencies, going down to $36.8 million, again hindered by apparel and casual footwear, but boosted a little by men’s boots. Revenues in North America fell by 13.0 percent to $119.9 million due to weak consumer spending in the U.S.

Globally, Timberland’s wholesale revenues fell by 14.4 percent to $218.6 million, while retail sales were down by 8.1 percent to $78.0 million. They were hurt by the poor economic climate worldwide, especially in North America, as well as by the stronger dollar. Retail sales in Asia were down because of store closures, but they were up on a comparable basis.

The gross margin fell by 0.2 percentage points to 46.1 percent. Net income for the quarter fell by 11.7 percent to $15.9 million. Operating income was $18.2 million, a 21.6 percent drop from the same period in 2008. This figure included a $0.9 million non-cash impairment charge, and foreign exchange accounted for $1 million of the decline.

During the first quarter, Timberland repurchased $10.0 million worth of stock, or about 1 million shares. It also reduced its inventory by 9.7 percent to $162.8 million. It did not give guidance for the rest of the year, citing the volatility of current economic conditions.

During the present month of May, Timberland is promoting its legendary boat shoe through a road show in co-operation with local retailers in Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Germany. The brand has flown in a shoemaker from its manufacturing facilities in the Dominican Republic. The craftsman explains to the customers of Timberland’s retail partners the art of producing hand-made footwear.