Outdoor: Did you hear?...

Backpacker magazine hopes to hit the mark with GPS users, Deckers reports siginificant Q4 and year-end earnings, REI to refund $41 million to members, Snow Industry Summit planned for April, Black Diamond announces Mug Stump Awards, plus much more...
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>> Hitting newsstands this month is the April issue of Backpacker magazine. Normally, we don't see reason to hype a magazine issue, but this one is different. It marks the launch of a new initiative at Backpacker to become a fully GPS-enabled magazine -- no small task. Though only two stories in this magazine carry full GPS-supported trail data (an article on Yellowstone and one on the newly appearing Glen Canyon), Jon Dorn, executive editor of Backpacker, told us the ultimate goal is to have every article supported with associated GPS waypoints. Working closely with Offroute.com, as well as a growing army of hired guns and volunteers, Backpacker is assembling a map-supported database full of routes plotted with GPS coordinates that readers will be able to utilize by downloading the data directly into their own GPS units and heading off on wild adventures of their own. Our hats off to the Backpacker team for embarking on a project and direction that is truly innovative and potentially a huge goldmine -- Backpacker could well be on its way to becoming the AAA of the wilderness world. We do trust that Backpacker will lead by example here though, and not be so hasty in its race to embrace GPS that it forgets to reinforce for the magazine's readers that basic navigation skills are still required. Last thing we want to see are a bunch of clueless wonders lost in the woods simply because their GPS stopped working.

>> For the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2003, net sales for Deckers Outdoor Corp. (Nasdaq: DECK) increased 39 percent to $35.7 million versus 2002's $25.8 million, with significant Q4 increases for both its Teva and Ugg brands. Teva's fourth quarter 2003 was $13.3 million compared to 2002's $10.7 million, and Ugg rose 56 percent to $20.7 million from 2002 Q4 of $13.3 million. It was also a good year for the company as a whole: Net sales for 2003 increased 22 percent to $121.1 million from 2002's $99.1 million. Net earnings increased 465 percent to $9.2 million, or $0.77 per diluted share, compared to net earnings before cumulative effect of accounting change of $1.6 million, or $0.17 per diluted share last year. For FY 2003, Teva sales increased 17.5 percent to $76.5 million compared to $65.1 million in 2002, while Ugg sales skyrocketed 54.9 percent to $36.9 million from $23.8 million -- its sixth year of double-digit growth. The black sheep of the Deckers family, though, was Simple, which had a sales drop in 2003 to $7.7 million from 2002's $10.2 million. In the Feb. 26 earnings conference call, CEO Doug Otto said the company is modifying the growth strategy for Simple. The plan includes building upon the "iconic status" of its sneakers and clogs, as well as expanding into a moderately priced shearling boot line that does not conflict with its Ugg brand. Deckers also intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a sale of about 3.5 million shares of its common stock -- about 1.5 million primary shares to be offered by the company and about 2 million shares from selling stockholders, including Otto and other employees, members of management and members of the board of directors. Deckers said it will use a portion of the net proceeds to repay outstanding debt. One could also deduce that the selling of the shares is linked with the potential sale of the company, which was reported earlier this year in TheDeal.com. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> REI has announced its annual sales to the membership, reporting a refund of $41 million to members on sales of $805 million in 2003 -- a total sales increase of 9.5 percent over $735 million reported in 2002. For 2003, the company's operating income increased from $47.6 million to over $56 million, with $19.1 million in net income reported. That's a significant $3 million increase over 2002 net income numbers. New store openings certainly helped to drive sales up. However, the biggest contributor to sales increases came from direct sales, including the catalog and Internet, with an increase of 12.2 percent. Little doubt that REI's new and very successful program, REI Store Pickup, helped drive some of that increase for both in-store sales and Internet ordering. Since the launch in July, 37 percent of customers taking advantage of the program that allows them to order online and then pickup the ordered items at a store free of shipping, also purchased additional items while at the store for the pickup.

>> Join SIA, Transworld Snowboarding and Mountain Sports Media for the first Snow Industry Summit from April 1 to 4 at Copper Mountain, Colo. Similar to the highly successful and valuable Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous, the Summit offers snowsports industry folk four days packed with seminars, networking opportunities, receptions and plenty of time to ski, snowboard, or otherwise romp and frolic on the snow -- naturally. For details and registration information, go to www.thesnowtrade.org.

>> Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. has announced the winners of the Mugs Stump Award for 2004. Given annually to climbers attempting alpine climbing objectives that exemplify fast, light and clean tactics, the awards are a tribute to the late Mugs Stump, one of North America's most prolific and visionary climbers, who died in a crevasse fall in Alaska in May 1992. Sponsored by Mountain Gear, Patagonia, W.L. Gore and Associates, Inc. and Black Diamond Equipment Ltd., the Mugs Stump Award Winners for 2004 are: Krzsztof Belczynski and Martin Tomaszewski for their expedition to Meru Central's Shark's Fin (6,310 meters); David Anderson and Steve Herlihy for their trip to the unexplored Avellano Towers, Patagonia; Chris Geisler, Scott Withers and David Edgar for their expedition to the unclimbed North Ridge of Shingu Charpu in the Nangma Valley, Pakistan; Kevin Mahoney and Ben Gilmore for a new free line on the East Face of the Moose's Tooth, Alaska; and Ben Sarnquist's and Sean Cooney's attempt on a mixed line on the East Face of Mount Dan Beard, Alaska.

>> Wellman Inc. (NYSE:WLM) reported a net loss from continuing operations of $98.1 million for the fourth quarter and $96.7 million for the full year ended Dec. 31, 2003. In 2002, net earnings from continuing operations for the fourth quarter and full year were $3.3 million and $26.4 million, respectively. After giving effect to the accretion and a one-time beneficial conversion charge related to the preferred stock, the net loss attributable to common stockholders for fourth quarter and full year 2003 was $105.2 million, or $3.33 per diluted share, and $106.7 million, or $3.38 per diluted share, respectively. In 2002, after giving effect to discontinued operations and the cumulative effect of an accounting change, fourth quarter net earnings attributed to common stockholders were $3.4 million, or $0.11 per diluted share, and the full year net loss attributable to common stockholders was $194.4 million, or $6.07 per diluted share. "Normal fourth quarter seasonal weakness -- related to winter buying patterns of our North American beverage packaging customers, the resulting lower-margin exports, and pricing pressure associated with annual contract negotiations -- was aggravated by the weak market environment," said Thomas Duff, Wellman's chairman and chief executive officer. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> In a deal that was inked during the WSA show, Red Wing Shoe Company has entered into a partnership agreement with Carhartt Inc. to launch a new line of professional grade footwear under the Carhartt brand. Planning for the introduction is currently underway with a launch date yet to be determined. We have been told this will not involve the Vasque brand in any way at this time.

>> The Professional Paddlesports Association (PPA) will hold a 2004 Paddlesports Industry Safety Summit April 17-18 in Panama City Beach, Fla., at the Marriott Bay Point Village. This is the first in what the association hopes will be an annual event to bring together manufacturers, retailers, outfitters/liveries and industry sales reps to discuss safety issues within the paddlesports industry. Attendees will develop plans of action for the industry to address paddlers' safety needs. These plans will include industry direction on consumer outreach, manufacturing standards and government affairs. A conference registration form is available online at: http://www.propaddle.com/paddlesports-industry-safety-summit.pdf.

>> After nearly a decade of success in Southern and Northern California, the Outdoor Academy -- a training event for retailers sponsored by industry manufacturers and their reps -- is expanding to the Pacific Northwest with a Portland, Ore., venue. The dates are: Southern California, April 20-22; Northern California, April 27-29; and Portland, May 4-6. At each Academy, 70 manufacturers present their products to over 150 retail employees per day. Trainings are presented in an informal outdoor classroom setting. Session times range from 15 to 50 minutes. This year, in response to requests, the OA is launching a new program dubbed "Recess." The concept is either a half or full day play fest with rep- or vendor-led outings that will include hikes, climbs, rides, paddles, fishing, skiing, etc. This is a unique opportunity to spend "quality" influential time with staff, educating them on product while playing outdoors! Attendance is $5 per day for retail employees, and a hearty lunch is included. For more information, call 707-252-9630 or visit www.outdooracademy.com. Pictures, detailed information and more are available on the website. Rep/Vendor Registration is underway currently. Retailer registration begins in March.

>> Five new directors and one new officer were elected to the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) board of directors at its annual membership meeting held during the 2004 SIA SnowSports Show in Las Vegas. Richard Leffler, president of Nils Inc., was reelected to another term as chairman of the board. Joining Leffler on the slate of officers was newly elected Laurent Potdevin of Burton Snowboards who was named third vice chair. Three newcomers were elected to three-year terms as directors including: Steve Kvinlaug, Alpina Sports; Chris Licata, Dynastar Skis Inc; and David Rosenberger, Quiksilver Inc. Peter Knights of Elan Skis and Marty Carrigan of Palmer USA were also named directors but will serve two-year and one-year terms, respectively.

>> Wacoal Sports Science Corp., maker of CW-X Performance Conditioning Wear (www.cw-x.com), has hired several new independent sales groups and sales reps, expanding coverage to 46 states. The company now works with a total of 23 reps from 10 rep groups around the nation. New sales reps for Wacoal Sports Science are: TPA Sales, responsible for the mountain region (paul@tpasales.net); Davies Sales, covering the southeast (b1811@charter.net); Kinlico Enterprises Inc. (Mark Fulton), for southern California, southern Nevada and Arizona (mf@earthgames.com); Cindy Taylor, who will cover northern California and Nevada (bjsports@usa.net); and Bill Nelson, whose territory will include Kentucky, Alabama and Florida (wnelson@tampabay.rr.com).

>> Trails.com has hired sales reps and outside assistance to represent Trail Finder to specialty retail stores nationwide. The new sales reps are: in New England, KC Putnam & Associates; in the Mid-Atlantic, Jeff Simonoff & Associates; in the Midwest, Chet Cisek, Wild Moon; in the Rockies, Susie von Mettenheim, Split Pine Books; and in the Pacific Northwest, Ned Johnson, YPS.

>> The Timberland Company today has hired Michelle Poole as vice president, global category management for the company's women's footwear and apparel businesses. In this position, she is responsible for women's footwear and apparel design, development and merchandising strategies worldwide. Michelle reports directly to Marc Schneider, Timberland's senior vice president of global product management.

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