Saucony bolsters Wolverine’s 1Q running specialty sales; Chaco hurt by cold spring

Running footwear brand Saucony is off to a great start with its new parent company Wolverine Worldwide.

Running footwear brand Saucony is off to a great start with its new parent company Wolverine Worldwide.

Saucony sales rose by “double-digit, mid-teen” percentage points in the first quarter 2013, along with a high-single-digit percentage increase of sales from Merrell, to help Wolverine’s new Performance Group report strong earnings to start the year.

Fellow group brands Patagonia Footwear, Cushe and Chaco “got off to a slower start to the year,” with Chaco sales particularly hurt by the cold start to spring.

“It's no secret that the unusually cold weather that has lingered for several months has clearly had an impact on the normal start to the spring season in the U.S. and certain parts of Europe,” Wolverine CEO Blake Krueger told investors on the company’s conference call Tuesday morning. “Just last week, we had freezing temperatures and snow from Texas to Canada and throughout the Midwest. It snowed in Michigan this past weekend, and there's more snow in the forecast for later this week. Incredible.”

Where Chaco was hurt by the cold weather, outdoor brand Merrell likely benefited. The brand also gained with its new minimalist/hybrid M-Connect collection, which Krueger said not only was selling well on the performance side, but also the casual/lifestyle side (such as at department stores) because of the line’s vibrant colors.

Saucony saw its biggest gains overseas and in the running specialty channel, and Krueger said the brand is one of the fastest-growing in the latter.

Taking the good and bad into account, Wolverine’s combined Performance Group sales (Merrell, Saucony, Patagoina Footwear, Cushe and Chaco) rose 8 percent pro forma (as if Saucony were owned last year) for the first quarter to $240.5 million.

The Performance Group accounted for 37 percent of Wolverine’s total sales. Overall, the company, which also owns brands like Keds, Stride Rite, Sperry Top-Sider and Sebago, reported its first-quarter revenues up 8.2 percent pro forma (as if its recent acquisitions were owned a year ago) to $645.9 million.

Investors sent Wolverine’s stock (NYSE: WWW) up more than 5 percent as of midday Tuesday, also encouraged by increased full-year 2013 projections of revenue increases between 6-9 percent pro forma.

--David Clucas