Merrell parent projects ‘sluggish growth’ for outdoor footwear in 2013

Two consecutive weak fall and early winter seasons forced Wolverine Worldwide, parent to Merrell, Chaco, Patagonia Footwear and Saucony, to issue investors a conservative forecast for outdoor footwear in 2013.
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Officials with Wolverine Worldwide, parent to Merrell, Chaco, Patagonia Footwear and Saucony, gave investors a conservative forecast for outdoor footwear in 2013.

“We expect the U.S. outdoor channels to experience sluggish growth in 2013, driven partly by two consecutive fall and early winter weather seasons that were much tamer than normal, resulting in retailers being even more cautious about orders for the fall 2013 season,” Wolverine CFO Don Grimes said Tuesday on a conference call recapping the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 results. He added that economic conditions in Europe will remain challenging, but likely have bottomed out.

“Given these challenges, we expect the Merrell brand, even with the successful launch of its new M-Connect collection to grow its global revenue in a low-single-digit range in 2013,” Grimes said.

The conservative forecast isn’t all bad news for the industry, however. In face of the headwinds, Wolverine plans for “year-over-year increases in marketing, product development and sales force infrastructure in support of key growth strategies at Merrell,” Wolverine CEO Blake Krueger said. And the company should see better gains from its newly acquired Saucony brand “based on current backlogs and retailer feedback.”

Wolverine’s outdoor group, minus the recent Saucony addition, reported a 1.7 percent increase in sales to $143.5 million for the fourth quarter 2012. For the full-year 2012, its outdoor sales fell 1.2 percent to $545.3 million.

The overall company, which also includes lifestyle footwear brands such as Sperry Top-Sider and Keds, expects to report between $2.7 billion and $2.8 billion in annual revenue for 2013.

Click here for a complete look at Wolverine Worldwide's fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 earnings released Feb. 19, 2013.

--David Clucas

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