Outdoor financials: Eddie Bauer releases preliminary Q1 sales, plus Wolverine, MPI Outdoors/Grabber

Eddie Bauer released preliminary Q1 sales, Wolverine stock rallied after an analyst downgrade, and MPI Outdoors was purchased by Grabber.

Eddie Bauer releases preliminary Q1 sales

Preliminary results for Eddie Bauer Holdings (Nasdaq: EBHI) show a 0.5 percent rise in first-quarter same-store sales. For the quarter ended March 29, same-store sales rose 2.9 percent in retail stores and fell 3.1 percent at outlet stores.

Preliminary total sales fell less than 1 percent to $198 million, from $199.7 million last year.

The company added that it remains in compliance with all of its loan covenants for the first quarter.

"This was a challenging quarter for us, given the overall downturn in retail, our higher starting inventory position, and the restructuring costs we took in the quarter," CEO Neil Fiske said in a statement. "We remain confident in our ability to execute our multi-year turnaround plan."

Fiske, who started in June, has been working to turn the company around, including revamping merchandise and cutting costs. In January, the company said it would cut 123 jobs, or 16 percent of corporate staff, in an effort to lower costs by $25 million to $30 million in 2008.

Wolverine stock rallies after analyst downgrade, board declares dividend

Shares of Wolverine World Wide (NYSE: WWW), parent of Merrell, went up on April 17, a day after they fell 10 percent on a downgrade that came despite strong first-quarter results.

Wolverine said first-quarter earnings rose 6 percent, helped by strong international sales, and raised fiscal-year guidance. But shares fell 10 percent (closing at $27.70 on April 16 versus $30.11 on April 15) as an analyst downgraded the stock, in a client note, due to its share price and belief that sales were decelerating.

In a note to investors, Citi Investment Research analyst Kate McShane said Wolverine was trading at a 9 percent premium to its peers. She said sales are difficult to predict since retailers are increasingly ordering closer to the time they actually sell products and are at risk to cancel orders amid a weak economic environment. She downgraded the company to "Hold" from "Buy."

Despite being more positive, Morgan Joseph & Co. analyst Jeffrey Blaeser gave Wolverine a "Hold" rating. "While we believe Wolverine's diverse business mix somewhat shields it from potential U.S. weakness, macro-economic conditions remain a concern and could continue to limit top-line growth," he wrote in a client note.

Shares rose $0.83, or 3 percent, to close at $28.53 on April 17. The stock has traded between $19.85 and $31.21 over the past year.

In other company news:
Wolverine's board declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.11 per share of common stock. The dividend is payable on August 1, 2008, to stockholders of record on July 1, 2008. The dividend is equal to the last quarterly dividend and represents a $0.44 per share annual dividend.

MPI Outdoors purchased by Grabber

Grabber Performance Group said it has acquired MPI Outdoors, the manufacturer and distributor of personal safety, comfort and protection products, including the Original Space Brand Blankets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"After 44 years in the industry, we were looking for a company where MPI's legacy and its future would be in good hands and we found it in Grabber," said Pat McHugh, vice president of sales for MPI Outdoors, in a statement.

"There is strong synergy between our two companies and we are excited by the opportunity to serve MPI Outdoors loyal customers, many of whom are also Grabber Warmers customers," Gary Gerds, general manager of Grabber Performance Group, said in the official release. "We look forward to being able to work with Ron Caterino and Pat McHugh to make the transition seamless and pledge to continue to offer the quality and service that have become their hallmark."

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