Like many apparel companies, Columbia Sportswear is grappling with inventory issues, supply-chain struggles and ultra-cautious retailers. But it still turned in fourth-quarter financial results that were a little stronger than expected.
The Oregon-based company is also getting extra exposure these days. Quarterback Jalen Hurts, one of its athlete endorsers, is headed to the Super Bowl. The native Texan promotes Columbia's Omni-Heat Infinity technology, explaining how it keeps him warm as he adapts to cold-weather competition.
For the fourth quarter, Columbia says net sales rose 4%, or 8%, excluding the impact of foreign exchange, reaching a record $1.17 billion.
In a conference call webcast for investors, chief executive officer Tim Boyle credited the company's marketing strategies with the gains. That includes its content with Hurts and other athletes and its work with micro and macro influencers, like YouTuber Dude Perfect.
In addition, he says, the Omni-Heat Infinity technology earned plenty of accolades during the quarter, making the "Season's Best" lists in several enthusiast publications.
Net income fell to $125.7 million -- down from $157 million in the prior year's comparable period, pressured by increased markdowns and promotional activity.
Both sales and profits came in somewhat higher than forecast.
The flagship brand performed best, with sales gaining 13%. And direct-to-consumer (D2C) orders rose by 9%.
But things didn't go as well at its emerging brands. Sales at its Sorel footwear company and Mountain Hardwear* technical gear brand dropped 9%. And at prAna, its yoga apparel line, sales declined 6%.
Calling the results "a solid performance amid a challenging environment," Jonathan Komp, an analyst who follows the company for Baird, writes that the company's update on 2023 orders is "reassuring."
But it has left him wondering about the company's ability to work through excess inventory and the health of its other brands.
Last fall, the company launched a new initiative to grow between 9% and 11% each year and boost footwear and digital sales by more than 20% each year — however, the latest forecast for Sorel projects gains in the low single digits.
Sales forecasts for the year ahead include further declines for prAna and Mountain Hardwear.
*An earlier version misspelled Mountain Hardwear.