Outdoor: Did you hear?...

adidas-Salomon reports earnings and denies sale rumors, Rocky announces military contract and sees 11% jump in shares, 180s files patent infringement complaint against Walgreen, L.L. Bean drops interest in buying Eddie Bauer, plus much more...
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>> When the SNEWS® team received an invite to head to Utah for a Backbone Media-organized ski outing in Park City, Utah -- come on...it was tough work testing all that apparel and gear from Black Diamond, Obermeyer, Thor-lo, Horny Toad and Polartec -- we naturally accepted after a long second or two of consideration. Hey, we didn't want to seem too eager. Gear aside, what was most noteworthy about the trek was our host, Treasure Mountain Inn (TMI), a condo hotel nestled at the top of Park City's Main Street surrounded by Deer Valley on one side and Park City Mountain Resort on the other. The husband and wife team of Andy Beerman and Thea Leonard are the principal owners at TMI and handle reservations of the condos as well as the 2,600-square-foot meeting space. They have adopted an environmental ethic that goes beyond recycling, low-energy lighting and the use of wind-powered electricity to include donations to charities committed to environmental protection. What does this have to do with the outdoor industry? TMI has instituted an environmental "give-back" program for outdoor-friendly companies that utilize its facilities for meetings, giving 10 percent of the gross proceeds to an environmental charity or cause on behalf of the company. Located about 40 minutes from Salt Lake International Airport, Park City is unlike most Utah towns (a colorful and rowdy past) and could be just the spot for a company sales meeting or retreat before or after the Outdoor Retailer trade show. Beerman and Leonard said the 10-percent program is their way of making "a concerted effort to create a sustainable product that doesn't steamroll the environment and give back to the land where we recreate." Companies that have taken advantage of the TMI 10-percent program offer to date are Cloudveil and Ellington. For more information, check out www.treasuremountaininn.com or call 800-344-2460.

>> In a March 10 earnings conference call, adidas-Salomon (OTC: ADDDF.PK) announced that for 2003, currency-neutral sales for the company grew 5 percent; however, in euro terms, sales declined 4 percent to Euro 6.267 billion in 2003 compared to 2002's Euro 6.523 billion. In the fourth quarter of 2003, adidas-Salomon sales declined by 4 percent -- in euro terms, sales decreased 10 percent to Euro 1.354 billion in 2003 from Euro 1.511 billion in 2002. Sales for the Salomon group of brands, which includes Salomon, Arc'Teryx, Mavic and Bonfire, increased 2 percent on a currency-neutral basis (down 4 percent in euros to Euro 658 million vs. 2002's Euro 684 million) driven by improvements in cycling components, outdoor footwear and apparel. Gross profit for 2003 was Euro 264 million compared to 2002's Euro 279 million. According to the company, sales were particularly strong in the fourth quarter, increasing 8 percent in currency-neutral terms despite only average snow conditions in all major markets. These improvements, however, were partially offset by sales declines in winter sports hardware due to poor winter conditions in North America and Japan at the beginning of 2003. "Revenue development also shows the continued progress we have made in repositioning Salomon toward a more seasonally balanced product range with stronger emphasis on footwear and apparel," said adidas-Salomon CFO Robin Stalker. In 2003, sales of summer sports products increased 6 percent in currency-neutral terms (or 2 percent in euros) and now make up one-third of Salomon's sales. Both Salomon and adidas continue to deny that any part of Salomon is for sale, despite continued rumors coming from Europe. Despite an ispo-published news release from adidas citing the denial of sale and pointing fingers at the United States as the origin of all rumors, we can say with absolute certainty the rumors are filtering predominantly out of Europe and continue to float across the ocean. The latest rumors, this time alleging only the ski side of the biz was for sale, inspired calls to SNEWS® from analysts and a few interested company CEOs in the United States wondering about the truth. Naturally, we contacted our European financial sources as well as insider contacts who also confirmed that the rumor mill surrounding Salomon remains very active in Europe, but it appears to be just that, a rumor mill grinding out meal with very little substance. 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.

>> GERMANY -- The project director for the OutDoor trade show and EuroBike in Friedrichshafen, Germany, has announced he will leave the post as May 1. Willi Schaugg, 40, has been project manager of the two shows for the last three years and has been working at the trade show management group for five years. He will begin work for an event management company in the area that puts on conferences, concerts, company business meetings and other exhibits and events. Not actually seeking a new job, Schaugg told SNEWS® he was approached by a headhunter and couldn't turn the job down since it was what he called a "great opportunity" to oversee an entire group and offered great professional growth potential. Although rumors have circulated that there were political undertones to his job change, Schaugg reassured us that is completely untrue. He said he expects a successor will be named in the next few weeks. Newly named executive director of the European Outdoor Group Mark Held told SNEWS it was a shame that Schaugg was leaving since he was looking forward to working with him. Others in the industry have called Schaugg level-headed, practical and not driven by ego or the politics and rumors that have often surrounded the OutDoor show and its perceived competition with the ispo show. We wish him the best of luck and hope he still drops in for a visit at the OutDoor show to see his outdoor friends.

>> Paha Qué told SNEWS® the company is launching an exclusive dealer site within its own website, which it has dubbed "Online Product Training." The goal is to offer dealers a concise training program, complete with photos, diagrams, callouts, features, benefits and key selling points of Paha Que products with a quiz at the end to test retention of essential facts. Rumor has it the company will offer a prize to those who pass, but no word on what that prize will be. Dealers will be provided password and user names to allow access. Paha Que hopes to be up and running with the training site around April 1 -- no foolin'. For more information, go to www.pahaque.com.

>> Rocky Shoes and Boots (Nasdaq: RCKY) saw an 11 percent jump in its shares on March 10 after it announced a $16.4 million deal to make military boots for the U.S. military. Rocky will produce 200,000 pairs of infantry combat boots as part of a subcontract with Belleville Shoe Manufacturing Co. in Rocky's Puerto Rico factory, and will start shipping in June. The boots will be made under Belleville's contract with the U.S. government. Belleville has the option to order up to 675,000 more pairs of boots after the shipment of the first 200,000. Rocky plans to update its 2004 earnings guidance to include the accretive effect of the deal when it announces first-quarter results in late April. The company said in February that it expected earnings of about $1.54 per share for 2004. An analyst at Crowell, Weedon & Co. said the contract will provide a "meaningful" addition to Rocky's revenue and "strengthen the overall story" for the company.

>> 180s Inc. is taking another company to task for patent infringement. The company filed a complaint March 9 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Northern Division) against Walgreen Co. for patent infringement, trade dress infringement and unfair competition over its Ear Warmer product. 180s charges that Walgreen is selling a similar ear covering under the name "Ear Band" in multiple New York and Connecticut stores. 180s has held its Ear Warmer patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,835,609 (the '609 patent), since November 1998. In court documents, 180s also said Walgreen has used photos in its marketing materials that are the property of 180s and used in its own promotional materials. Among its various requests for relief, 180s is asking the court for a permanent injunction to stop the infringement on its '609 patent, to cease the sale of the offending product and compensation. This follows on the heels of two January patent infringement filings against Starcrest of California, a California-based mail-order company, and Liter Boutique, a distributor of consumer products. Recently, the company settled an infringement suit that it filed in Japan for its Japanese equivalent of the '609 patent.

>> After Spiegel Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection a year ago, its Eddie Bauer division was being eyed seriously by L.L. Bean, which had asked the courts last spring to keep it apprised of developments. Now, it seems L.L. Bean is no longer interested after various meetings with consultants, bankers and equity partners to discuss how the two outdoor companies might join forces. An L.L. Bean spokesman said one of the key assets that it was most interested in -- Eddie Bauer's customer database -- has lost strength as a result of sales declines. Other stumbling blocks included the incompatibility of Eddie Bauer's retail format with L.L. Bean's plans for larger 30,000-square-foot stores and that the actual acquisition process was more complex than L.L. Bean had first realized. Spiegel has said it has no plans to sell Eddie Bauer and is scheduled to file its reorganization plan by May 10.

>> In related L.L. Bean news, the company just released its 2003 sales results with net sales at $1.2 billion, up 10 percent over the $1.1 billion in sales in 2002 and eclipsing the previous high sales mark for the company of $1.14 billion in 2001. Bean reported that its online sales division increased sales by 26 percent, with the retail division showing a 12 percent increase. And, in a nifty turnaround from a year ago when the company was mired in layoff news, the company announced it will be paying a cash award of 15 percent of annual pay to eligible employees and giving a $165 appreciation gift to part-time staff who did not meet the discretionary bonus requirement. The 10 percent increase in net sales marks the second largest increase for the company in one year, with 1995 remaining higher at 11 percent. In addition, the company reported that December 2003 marked the best December in company history, up 8 percent over 2002. Consider too that the company's Freeport store, the company headquarters, realized a $1.1 million day last year, and one begins to sense things have turned around nicely for the retail giant.

>> MontBell America has opened up its website -- www.montbell.com -- to online shopping in North America. MontBell tells SNEWS® that the move is in response to overwhelming demand for its product. In the 12 months following MontBell America's return to the U.S. market, web hits on the translated (English) version of Montbell.com's Japanese website rose from 4 percent to over 20 percent. Since MontBell America opened company doors in Boulder, Colo., on November 2, 2002, the company has established relationships with specialty retailers in 16 states and in Canada. However, phone orders received by the flagship store in Boulder represent customers in 46 states, and 15 percent of MontBell's total retail sales to date.

>> Kellwood Company (NYSE: KWD) reported sales and earnings for both the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2004. Sales from continuing operations for the fourth quarter were flat with prior year, $521 million vs. $520.6 million. 2003 sales were up $2.346 billion vs. 2002's $2.166 billion. Wading through the earnings conference call, one began to wonder if the American Recreation division still existed at Kellwood, especially with the emphasis on Kellwood's recent Phat Fashions and Phat Farm acquisition. Finally, during the Q&A portion of the call, an analyst asked about the outdoor business and Hal Upbin, chairman and CEO of Kellwood, said the division met bottom line performance last year even though sales were flat, adding that the division is modestly growing its business and still making money. Ultimately, Upbin said he is very pleased with it. 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.

>> ispo is accepting entries for this summer's ispo BrandNew Award, with a deadline of April 2. Winners in seven categories will receive all-expense-paid booths and other benefits at ispo summer, July 4-6, in Munich -- ispo values the award at $125,000 when free promotion, free advertising, free booth space and other perks are added in. Since this award marks the 10th staging of the BrandNew Award, ispo also announced that the 1,000th registrant (in the award's history) will receive a $1,000 Euro travel voucher to attend ispo summer 04. Just under 150 companies from 22 countries entered the winter awards. An international jury of sports business professionals judge the entries for design, marketing and innovation. To qualify, companies must be no older than four years old and a first-time exhibitor at ispo. Entries must be received by April 2. Companies, brands or individuals worldwide with a new, and what they consider "ingenious product," can go online to www.ispo-brandnew.com to download an entry form or get more information for mailing entries. Questions can be emailed to: info@ispo-brandnew.com.

>> Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. (NYSE: DKS) reported sales and earnings results for the fourth quarter and year ended Jan. 31, 2004. Net income for the fourth quarter increased 36 percent to $26 million and earnings per share increased 22 percent to $1.00 per diluted share as compared to net income of $19.1 million and earnings per share of $0.82 per diluted share for the quarter ended Feb. 1, 2003. Total sales for the quarter increased 20 percent to $474.4 million from 2002's $395.2 million. Same-store sales climbed 4.6 percent in the quarter. Net income for full year 2003 increased 38 percent to $52.8 million and earnings per share increased 12 percent to $2.10 per diluted share as compared to net income of $38.3 million and earnings per share of $1.87 per diluted share for previous year. Total sales for 2003 increased 16 percent to $1,470.8 million. Comparable store sales increased 2.1 percent. Estimates for Q1 2004 show that comparable store sales are expected to increase approximately 4 percent to 5 percent. Dick's expects to open six new stores during the first quarter in Youngstown, Ohio; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Indianapolis, Ind. (three stores); and Hartford, Conn. (its third store in that area). It opened 22 new stores in 2003 and plans a total of 25 for 2004. 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.

>> Black Diamond Equipment has announced that as of July 1, Sea To Summit will become the company's official Australian distributor. The move will now make available the entire Black Diamond product line to retailers selling to climbers, skiers and walkers across the country. The Paddy Pallin group, which has been Black Diamond Equipment's exclusive Australian retailer since the mid-1980s, will continue to sell Black Diamond gear in its 14 retail stores, but as both Black Diamond and the Australian market have expanded and matured, the company felt a far wider representation of the brand is now essential. Black Diamond's entire line will be on display at the SOTA show in Canberra in May, and later in the year, Sea To Summit will introduce the Brand on a nationwide tour. For more information on Sea To Summit, go to www.seatosummit.com.au. In local, but related news, Black Diamond has hired renowned guide and mountaineer, Jack Tackle, and Kim Miller as climbing hardware sales reps for the Rocky Mountain territory. Tackle worked as a sales rep for Black Diamond Equipment starting in 1988 and moved on to rep for Patagonia in 1991. Currently living in the Tetons, Tackle has a diverse resume that combines business successes with a history of impeccable alpine ascents. Miller worked the Rockies as the Black Diamond rep throughout the 1990s and later in house for Black Diamond in Salt Lake City through mid-2003.

>> Brigitte Baron has been appointed account manager for the Northwest region of National Geographic Adventure magazine. Formerly the magazine's New England account manager, Baron is moving to Adventure's Los Angeles office, where she will be responsible for sales in Northern California, Oregon and Washington state. Bryan Kinkade has been hired to replace Baron as account manager of the New England territory. Kinkade was most recently a sales rep at CNET's Computer Shopper magazine; prior to that, he held a sales position at Blue magazine.

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