Volcom Quarter & Nine Months Ended 9/30/09

Volcom’s Quarter and Nine Months Ended September 30

Back on October 29th Volcom released a press release with its third quarter results and hosted a conference call on those results. Everybody read, and listened, and analyzed, and wrote stuff.
On November 9th, with no press release, they filed their 10Q for the same time period. Nobody seems to have noticed, and maybe nobody cares. But I do.
I don’t think there should be a conference call until the 10Q (or annual 10K) is out and people have had a chance to review it. The numbers in the press release and conference call are of course the same as in the 10Q. But there’s more detailed information in the 10Q, but some of those numbers only come out orally in the conference call and you have to write really, really fast to get it down. Either that, or listen to the replay fourteen times which isn’t any fun.
Then there’s the part where the analysts ask questions and request some additional “color” on an issue. You do sometimes get some good information this way and “color” can mean more detail. But it can also mean interpretation, estimate, evaluation, etc.
I read the press release and listened to the conference call. But here’s what I got out of the actual, uncolored numbers and management discussion from the 10Q.
The balance sheet is very strong, with about $90 million in liquid assets and no long term debt. It’s strong enough that we don’t even have to discuss it.
At the conference call, Volcom management said that the third quarter results had exceeded their expectations “primarily driven by revenue that was above plan in all three of our business segments. “ It was $9 million higher than the high end guidance provided at the last conference call.
That I suppose is a good thing, though another interpretation might be that they did a lousy estimating at the last conference call. I guess the worse you estimate one quarter, the better you can look next quarter. Oh well- a lot of that going around in this economy. Companies are justifiably cautious.
The conference call message is that they did a lot better than their last estimate but the 10Q tells us that revenue for the quarter fell 15.9% to $93.9 million, and net income was down 18.5% to $13.3 million. For nine months, revenues are down 18.2% to $216.5 million and net income fell 39.8% to $18.3 million. Net income as a percentage of sales fell from 14.6% to 14.1% for the quarter and from 11.5% to 8.5% for nine months.
Volcom reports their results for three segments; United States (which includes most of the world except Europe), Europe, and Electric. For the quarter and for nine months, revenue and gross profit were down in all three segments. Operating income for nine months was also down for each of the three segments. For the quarter, it fell in the United States and Europe, but rose in Electric.
They also report revenue for eight product categories; means, girls, snow, boys, footwear, girls swim, Electric, and other. For nine months, all the categories but snow were down. It rose from $23.3 to $23.9 million. For the quarter, everything but snow and girls swim was down. Snow rose from $22.9 to $23.1 million and girls swim from $110,000 to $156,000.
You can see the detailed breakdowns for the segments and product categories on pages 14 and 15 of the 10Q here. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1324570/000119312509229368/d10q.htm.
Volcom believes that “…our overall decline in revenues was driven primarily by the deteriorating global macroeconomic environment and the decline in discretionary consumer spending worldwide.” I agree with that and it’s true for most, if not all, industry companies. The trouble is that nobody can do anything about it except protect your brand, control expenses, and take advantage of competitors’ weakness.
The discussion of Volcom’s relationship with PacSun was interesting, and I’m going to quote here what they said.
“Sales to Pacific Sunwear decreased 42.4%, or $17.6 million, for the nine months ended September 30, 2009 compared to the nine months ended September 30, 2008. We currently expect a significant decrease in 2009 revenue from Pacific Sunwear compared to 2008. It is unclear where our sales to Pacific Sunwear will trend in the longer term. Pacific Sunwear remains an important customer for us and we are working both internally and with Pacific Sunwear to maximize our business with them. We believe our brand continues to be an important part of the Pacific Sunwear business. We also recognize that any customer concentration creates risks and we are, therefore, assessing strategies to lessen our concentration with Pacific Sunwear.”
It’s almost schizophrenic, isn’t it? ‘Well, the business is going to be down. But it’s important to us! We aren’t quite sure what this business will be in the future, but we want to maximize the business with them. But you got to be careful about customer concentration!’
This is indicative of the same old problem that companies in this industry face every day- especially when they are public. You have to find growth, but you can’t do it in such a way that it damages your distribution and, potentially, your brand equity.
Volcom is also in 105 Macy stores, they pointed out in the conference call.
Volcom managed to increase their gross margin from 49.4% to 51.6% for the quarter and from 49.9% to 50.5% for nine months. This is a good result that they attribute to limited discounting, better inventory management and an increased margin from Japan after they acquired their Japanese distributor in November, 2008. Total gross profit, of course, was down consistent with the decline in revenues. 
Acquiring your distributor increases your gross margin, but also increases your selling, general and administrative expenses. For the quarter, these grew from 27.1% to 30.7% of revenues and for nine months, from 32.5% to 38.3%. This percentage increase was also the result of having to spread costs over a lower revenue base, increased bad debt write-offs, and incremental expenses for retail stores. In dollar terms, these expenses fell in the quarter from $30.3 to $28.9 million. For nine months, they were down from $86 to $82.7 million
The decrease during the quarter was due to reduced commissions because of lower revenues, decreased amortization, bad debt declining by $400,000 and a $1.5 million decrease in other categories including tradeshow, warehouse and legal. A lower exchange rate also helped. These declines were offset by a $1.5 million increase associated with the Japanese distributor.
Volcom is of a good size and in a good market position to take advantage of other brand’s problems and rebounding consumer spending, whenever that happens. In the meantime, they are controlling expenses, trying to source better, managing inventory and doing everything else they can do to maximize those gross profit dollars. Every company should be doing all those things all the time- not just when the economy is lousy.
But there’s a limit to how much good operational management can improve your bottom line. You can’t cut expenses and reduce inventory forever.   Ultimately, I expect Volcom to be one of the strong brands that benefit from the impact of the recession. But where will growth come from, and when will it begin?