Quik’s Quarter Ended Jan. 31, 2010; Great Tactics- What’s the Growth Strategy?

A sales decline of 2.4% for the quarter ended Jan. 31, 2010 compared to the same quarter the prior year, from $443.7 to $432.7 million isn’t what you’d like to see.  Then you notice that their gross margin percentage rose from 46.7% to 51.3% and that their gross profit was up by 7.2% even with the sales decline and things look better.  Quik attributes this to a better economic environment, improved sourcing, reduced discounting and good inventory management.

 A year ago, on Jan. 31 2009, their inventory was $380.5 million.  At January 31st this year, it was down to $301.2 million, a decline of almost 21%.  Very impressive.  They have also reduced their receivables by 13.5% over the year and days sales outstanding (how long it takes them to collect their receivables) fell from 72 to 64 days.  Cash is up from $42 to $150 million.  Their current ratio has improved over the year from 1.63 to 2.24, indicative of the capital raised and the restructuring of their bank lines to improve liquidity.  Their total debt to equity has also improved from 3.81 to 2.91, also largely due to the equity raised.

But their long term debt and lines of credit still total $977 million.  While that’s down from $1.013 billion a year ago, it’s still a lot and they’ll have to work to reduce it if they want to improve their operating flexibility and maybe refinance their expensive (15% plus warrants) debt that they got from Rhone capital.  They expect to reduce that debt by about $100 million a year over the next three years.  In the conference call, they increased their estimate of free cash flow from $50 million to $75 million for the year.

I don’t typically lead with a balance sheet discussion, but it’s so pivotal to Quik’s future that it seemed to make sense.  Back to the income statement.

Selling, general and administrative expenses fell 1.8% to $203 million.  They expect their marketing expenses to be around $100 million in the current fiscal year, down from $120 million last year.  Operating income grew from $345,000 to $19 million.

Interest expense, to nobody’s surprise, was up from $14 to $21 million.  They expect total interest expense this year to be around $92 million $26 million of which, Quik reminds us, is noncash.  The loss from continuing operations was $65.2 million in this quarter last year, compared to $4.6 million this year.  The net loss fell from $194.4 million last year ($128 million of that was Rossignol related) to $5.4 million in the quarter ended January 31, 2010.

During the quarter, sales decreased by 8% in the Americas.  They fell by 2% in Europe and rose 16% in Asia/Pacific.  In constant currency terms they were down 12% in Europe and 15% in Asia/Pacific.  That translates into a decline in sales overall in constant currency terms of 11%.  As reported (that is, ignoring currency fluctuation), revenues were $187 million in the Americas, $178 million in Europe, and $67 million in Asia/Pacific.

They commented that the juniors market was difficult.  The Americas decrease was in Roxy and Quiksilver, offset by an increase in DC.  However, they note that increase “was partially related to the timing of shipments,” which means some of the increase was not organic growth, and will reduce next quarter’s sales.  In constant currency in Europe, the story was about the same, with declines in Roxy and Quiksilver offset by some growth in DC.

As with any company, there’s a limit to how much improvement you can see from inventory management, expense control, and sourcing improvements.  There is, I suppose, always room to do better, and I’ve been urging companies for maybe two years now to focus on gross profit dollars.  But at some point, to improve profits, you have to sell more.  What Bob McKnight said in the conference call was that Quik is “… in a prime position to benefit from future improvements in the world’s economies and in particular in consumer spending.”

I believe that, but what I also hear him saying is that they really need that improvement to get growth and profitability back on track.  For the second quarter, they expect to “…generate earnings per share on a diluted basis in the low single digit range.”  CFO Joe Scirocco believes they can still achieve the full year revenue objectives they outlined last quarter (he didn’t say profit projections), “…although some definite challenges remain, including a challenging juniors market, foreign currency headwinds, and uncertainty at retail.”

We didn’t get (and probably shouldn’t expect in a conference call) a lot of specificity as to where growth can come from.  CEO McKnight highlighted the core shop strategy that has been rolled out for all three brands where they have developed and are selling product only in their own stores and the best independent retailers.  I think that’s a great, and necessary, thing for them to do.  As I’ve argued before, however, I’m not sure that will be the source of enough additional revenue to make a big financial difference.  Hope to be wrong about that.

So I’m impressed by the steps Quik has taken to improve their liquidity, control expenses, manage their inventory and restructure their businesses for improved efficiency.  The last step will be reducing their leverage.  That’s just going to take some time and some cash flow.

The source of their future revenue growth (which they need if only because of their increased interest expense) is not clear to me.  I’ve said that a couple of times before in comments on their filings and it’s still true.  Like all of us, they are dependent on and hoping for a recovery in consumer spending.  They’ll get- are getting- some.  Like all of us, it won’t be as much as we’d like or have gotten use to.  But what they really need are some new places to sell their products.  At least in the U.S., I don’t know where else they can go with their distribution.  Maybe there are some opportunities in the rest of the world.