Columbia Sportswear post record Q4 net sales, revenues jump 4%
Winter has been good to cold weather merchandise specialist Columbia Sportswear. The company has announced net sales of $776.0 million for the fourth quarter, ended December 31, 2017, propelled forward by even demand across apparel, accessories and footwear categories. This is an 8 percent increase from net sales of $717.4 million for the fourth quarter of 2016.
Operating income for Q4 was $109.4 million, up from $100.4 million in the prior year. It did however report a net loss of $7.1 million, after reporting a profit in the same period a year earlier. This was largely attributed to a tax reform related incremental expense.
European markets were key for Columbia Sportswear with Europe, the Middle East and Africa's (EMEA) Q4 net sales increasing 19 percent to $83.5 million. Canada and Latin America and Asia Pacific (LAAP) were up by 14 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Even a challenging U.S. retail environment didn't hinder Columbia’s performance. U.S. net sales for the quarter increased 8 percent to $492.6 million, benefiting from a company-wide push in its direct-to-consumer business.
President and Chief Executive Officer Tim Boyle commented, "We are pleased to report better than expected fourth quarter results, including continued growth in Europe, North America, and with our distributor partners around the world. In 2017, we reported record net sales, gross margin, and operating income."
Full year results were also encouraging, with net sales up 4 percent to $2.47 billion in 2017 powered by the strength of key brands Columbia, Sorel and Prana. Operating income was $263.0 million, compared with $256.5 million in the prior year.
Global Columbia brand net sales increased 4 percent to $1.99 billion and Prana brand net sales increased 1 percent to $140.9 million. After a sales decline in 2016, Sorel clocked a far better-than-expected sales increase of 7 percent. Mountain Hardwear brand declined 2 percent to $101.6 million.
"We are particularly encouraged by the strong results we achieved in Europe-direct in 2017, completing a third consecutive year of double-digit net sales growth. A relentless focus also drove 2017 net sales growth in the United States, with expansion of direct-to-consumer (DTC) offsetting challenges in wholesale,” said Boyle.
2017 was a year of shifts for the Portland-based company, with a shuffling within executive ranks early in the year that included CEO Tim Boyle taking on the additional duties of president. In July, the company reported it was turning its attention to consumer-led programs like Project Connect that aimed to keep the company agile in an evolving consumer landscape.
Marketing expenses and discrete costs connected with initiatives such as Project Connect did however take a swipe at net income for the year, which came in at $105.1 million — a decrease of 45 percent from 2016.
Still, with operating cash flow of $341.1 million and no long-term debt, Boyle suggested that the company has the flexibility to adapt its business as major markets continue to evolve.
“It is from this position of strength that we are investing in our strategic priorities to drive brand awareness and sales growth through increased, focused demand creation investments and enhance digital capabilities across channels and geographies.”
The company predicts 2018 net sales growth to be approximately 5.5 to 7.5 percent compared with 2017 and operating income sitting between $263 million and $273 million.
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