Outdoor financials: Columbia sees record 4Q, but is cautious heading into 2012; plus LaCrosse revenue, profit slips

Columbia reported record fourth-quarter and year-end 2011 earnings, but warned of slower growth to start 2012. Meanwhile, bootmaker LaCrosse's earnings dipped on a reduction in military contracts and weaker winter consumer sales.

Columbia Sportswear Co. (Nasdaq:COLM) reported record fourth-quarter and full year 2011 earnings, but cautioned that the warm winter and European economic jitters could temper early 2012 results.

The Portland, Ore.-based parent of Mountain Hardwear, Sorel and its namesake Columbia brands reported revenue up 15 percent to $457.3 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a year ago. Columbia’s fourth-quarter net income increased 40 percent to $36.7 million, or $1.08 per diluted share, compared with net income of $26.2 million, or 77 cents per diluted share, for the same period in 2010.

“In 2011, we achieved many of the financial and operational goals we set at the beginning of the year, despite unfavorable weather and a challenging macro-economic backdrop,” Columbia President and CEO Tim Boyle said in a statement with the Feb. 2 earnings release. “However, our business is not fully insulated from the effects of this year’s unusually warm winter globally, or from the macro-economic challenges that continue to cloud the European and U.S. marketplaces.

Boyle continued: “Due to those factors, we have built our preliminary outlook for 2012 around low single-digit sales growth, compared with the 19 percent and 14 percent growth that we achieved in 2010 and 2011, respectively. As a disciplined response to these slower growth assumptions, we have begun implementing a number of measures designed to limit full year 2012 expense growth to a rate that is comparable to our anticipated sales growth.”

Columbia officials project revenue to grow by just 1 percent for the first quarter 2012, which, taking the above statement into account, means its spending increases will be minimal.

For now, the company can bask in strong fourth-quarter results, which by brand sales, saw Columbia rise 14 percent to $416.5 million, Sorel increase 27 percent to $64.3 million and Mountain Hardwear edge up 9 percent to $43.2 million.

By product category sales, footwear increased 23 percent to $126.1 million, outerwear rose 11 percent to $228.8 million, sportswear gained 15 percent to $137.4 million and accessories and equipment rose 15 percent to $33.8 million.

By region, sales increased 13 percent in the United States to $292.9 million, rose 29 percent in Latin America/Asia to $124.3 million, gained 9 percent in Europe/Africa to $77.1 million, and were unchanged in Canada at $31.8 million.

For the full year 2011, Columbia’s revenue rose 14 percent to a record $1.69 billion, while net income increased 34 percent to $103.5 million, or $3.03 per diluted share, compared to net income of $77 million, or $2.26 per diluted share for 2010.

In conjunction with the earnings release, Columbia’s board of directors approved a first-quarter dividend of 22 cents per share.

Lacrosse 4Q revenue, profit slip

LaCrosse Footwear Inc. (Nasdaq:BOOT) reported lower revenue and profit for the fourth quarter 2011, as officials said a reduction of military footwear contracts and a warm start to the winter weakened sales.

The Portland, Ore.-based footwear company reported fourth-quarter revenue down nearly 16 percent to $43.8 million, compared to the same period a year ago. LaCrosse’s quarterly net income dropped to $2.2 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, compared to a net income of $4 million, or 60 cents per diluted share, a year ago.

Lacrosse officials said its work footwear segment fell 13 percent to $27.1 million because of the reduced military orders, while its outdoor segment fell 20 percent $16.7 million due to “unfavorable weather conditions during the second half of 2011, partially offset by stronger demand for the Company’s new hiking boots.”

For the full year 2011, Lacrosse’s revenue fell nearly 13 percent to $131.3 million, while its net income slipped to $3 million, or 45 cents per diluted share, compared to a net income of $6.9 million, or $1.04 per diluted share, in 2010.

For 2012, company officials said they will focus on increasing product lines in outdoor, women’s lifestyle and law enforcement footwear. In conjunction with the earnings release, Feb. 2, LaCrosse’s board of directors approved a quarterly dividend of 12.5 cents per share.

–Compiled by David Clucas