Volcom 1st Quarter Ended March 31- Numbers, Macy, Inventory Management

Volcom filed their 10Q on May 10th. After I listened to the conference call and they said how well the brand was doing in Macy’s, I was determined to get into a Macy’s and see for myself before writing this. I’ve done that now, so we’ll take a look at the numbers then move on to what I saw in Macy’s. Seems to me there are some interesting strategic issues there; not just for Volcom but for the industry.

Numbers

First thing I did was go get the March 31, 2009 balance sheet so I could make a reasonable comparison. Still no long term debt, more cash and short term investments, day’s sales outstanding reduced from 76 to 60 days. The inventory turn, as reported in the conference call, was 4.8 times. Everything’s fine; certainly no issues here that would prevent them from pursuing their long term strategy. Balance sheets aren’t much fun to analyze when they are solid. On the other hand, it doesn’t take much time.
 
On the income side, they did better than they had expected. Revenue was up 13% to $77.4 million reflecting strength across all product lines (except juniors which was down 17%) and all segments. Gross profit rose from $34.4 million to $42 million, and gross profit margin was up from 50.3% to 54.2%. Gross profit margin was weakest in the US at 49.7%. It was 60.4% in Europe and 62.2% for Electric.
 
It would be well if you remembered that the in the same quarter last year consumers weren’t buying anything, and companies were discounting to move inventory. So at some level impressive increases are not surprising. We’re seeing them from other companies as well.
 
PacSun represented 10% of their product revenues for the quarter, down from 11% last year. They expect revenues from PacSun to remain flat in the coming quarter. Here’s what they say about PacSun. It’s worth reading.
 
"We recognize that any customer concentration creates risks and we are, therefore, assessing strategies to lessen our concentration with Pacific Sunwear. We cannot predict whether such strategies will reduce, in whole or in part, our sales concentration with Pacific Sunwear in the near or long term. Because Pacific Sunwear has represented such a significant amount of our product revenues, our results of operations are likely to be adversely affected by any Pacific Sunwear decision to decrease its rate of purchases of our products. A decrease in its purchases of our products, a cancellation of orders of our products or a change in the timing of its orders will have an additional adverse affect on our operating results."
 
I’m not quite sure how to interpret this. Anybody have any ideas, please let me hear them. First, they don’t know if the concentration is going to go down or not, or when. But you’d expect the concentration to fall with an overall increase of sales at Volcom. If not, that would mean PacSun was buying more if it were to continue to represent the same percentage of Volcom product revenues. Would Volcom sell them more? Then there’s the talk about the impact of PacSun decreasing their purchases. Why would they do that? Maybe (I hope) because Volcom won’t sell to them at the prices they want? This reads almost like a "Risk Factor." They didn’t put this discussion in here for no reason.   I will watch with interest.
 
After PacSun, revenue from the next four largest accounts represented 4% of product revenue.
 
Selling, general and administrative expenses rose from $28 to $31 million. Operating income rose 73% from $6.3 to $11 million. Net income was up 78.5% to $7.5 million. Volcom expects to double revenue by 2014 with operating margins improving to 15% to 20%.
 
One interesting operating comment they made during the conference call was how they were carrying higher inventory of certain basics for reorders, but that these were products that would be sold for several seasons. Having cut my teeth in this industry on the one season snowboard business, I just get all a dither when I hear about product that can be sold through multiple seasons at normal margins. I don’t know how much product it is, but there’s a lot of money and headaches to be saved doing that.
 
Strategy and Macy’s
CEO Richard Woolcott outlined six general strategies that Volcom will pursue. They included:
·         Maximizing wholesale distribution
·         International growth
·         Making Volcom the hottest brand in active sports
·         Growing the Electric brand
·         Having exceptionally innovative product
·         Cautiously increasing their direct to consumer business including ecommerce.
 
I suppose, except for the grow Electric one, most larger companies in this industry would subscribe to these objectives. The devil, as always, is in the details. And that brings me to my visit to Macy’s.
 
I only visited one. It was at the Alderwood shopping center north of Seattle. I was on my way back from a very pleasant weekend in Vancouver with my wife.
 
I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but you’ll have to settle for the thousand words. Less, actually. This Macy’s tended to give each brand its own space coming out from the wall. The wall itself would have the brand logo, and the width of the space was determined, I assume, by the success of the brand. So there was Adidas, North face, etc. I don’t remember them all. I looked for Volcom and didn’t see it. Nor, I realized, did I see Quiksilver, Billabong or any other of our major brands.
 
I had to ask for Volcom. "Around the corner on the left," I was told. I looked. Couldn’t find it. Asked somebody else. "Over there in the corner by the door."
 
Finally, I spotted a little Volcom sign on the wall right next to a Quiksilver sign. I was in the corner area of the store that I’d estimate was 30 feet square. Maybe a bit bigger. There was also an O’Neill sign up there. This area was full of racks. The merchandising technique seemed to be to see how many garments you could cram on a single rack. This wasn’t the Volcom area. Or the Quik or the O’Neill or the Billabong or the Element area (I think there were some other brands as well). But all those brands were there. Not in their own area, like other brands in the store, but all together in one area with the racks of Volcom not significantly distinguished from the racks of, say, Quiksilver.
 
The message I got from Macy’s was, "Here’s some more brands. We’ve got to carry them, but we don’t understand them (they all kind of seem the same anyway) and they aren’t important enough to us to merchandise them well."
 
To say that I was a bit dismayed is putting it mildly. Every brand there was damaged by the presentations or lack of presentation, of their brand. If this is "maximizing wholesale distribution," we’re in trouble. And I doubt this contributes to making any brand in that dog pile of brands "the hottest brand in action sports." Made me appreciate what core retailers do for brands.
 
Maybe I walked into the wrong Macy’s. At my earliest convenience, I’m going to visit another.
 
Volcom had a good quarter. But what I saw at this Macy’s store highlights the difficulties inherent in growing as distribution expands.