Mountain Warehouse has posted record annual profits. Retail Week takes a look at how it compares with its competitors.
The outdoor goods retail sector can legitimately claim that its performance is affected by the weather conditions. It is striking to see that many outdoor retailers have experienced similar sales trends over recent years - for instance turnover was adversely affected by the dry and warm autumn weather in 2011 but benefited substantially from the wettest summer on record in 2012.
Now Mountain Warehouse has reported that its recent strong performance was partly because of the wet weather last winter.
Observers will watch to see whether sales at the other outdoor specialists have also surged when they update.
- In the year to February 28 Mountain Warehouse’s operating profit jumped 44% to £8.2m and sales increased 20% to £91.7m.
- Mountain warehouse has 186 stores and aims for a domestic network of 200 outlets by 2015. It has a long-term target of 300 branches across Europe. It already has stores in Poland, Austria and the Republic of Ireland as well as in the UK.
- Mountain Warehouse is arguably the best performing outdoor products retailer of recent years – although many of its competitors have yet to file results for last year. Although there was a slight wobble in 2011/12, during which sales growth slowed significantly and margins came under pressure from widespread discounting in the sector as a result of difficulties at Blacks, Mountain Warehouse’s performance has continued to improve in more recent years.
- Its operating margins are among the highest in the outdoor sector. It clearly benefits from a focus on own-brand product - most of its product offer is exclusive. It is also firmly positioned at the value end of the market, making it a prime destination for those purchasing outdoor equipment, for instance for school trips or festivals.
- The turnaround at Blacks/Millets is continuing under ownership by JD Sports. The business has been placed in a separate outdoor division and has recently been joined by the 17-store Tiso business, in which JD Sports acquired a controlling stake in late 2013.
- Sales at the division have continued a downward trend and stood at £104.0m in the year to January 2014 – down from a level of around £300m from the mid-2000s. It also remains loss-making, with an operating loss before exceptionals of £8.8m – that however is an improvement on the previous year.
- Blacks operated 157 stores as at September 2013 after closing a number in the first half of that year.
- In the year to January 2013 the retailer generated pre-tax profit of £1.5m versus a loss of £2.6m the previous year. Sales rose 19% to £171m and operating profit was £3m against a £1.6m loss the prior year.
- As of September 2013 Go Outdoors operated 44 stores.
- Because of rationalisation at Blacks following its acquisition out of administration by JD Sports in early 2012, Go Outdoors is now the category market leader. Its sales have grownstrongly in recent years, however margins have continued to be held back by investment - for instance the store network has more than doubled over the last four years.
- In the year to December 2013 Cotswold made an operating profit of £4m from £3m the prior year and sales increased 14.6% to £103m. Pre-tax profit increased from £1.5m in 2011 to £2.6m in 2012.
- It had 69 stores in 2013.
- Cotswold also encountered more challenging conditions in 2011 but reported an improved performance in 2012, ending three years of margin erosion.
Snow + Rock
- The snow sports and outdoor specialist posted operating profit of £3.6m in the year to August 2012 from £3.7m the previous year. Sales jumped 8.1% in 2012 to £70.6m. Pre-tax losses fell 3.3% in 2012 to £2.3m.
- It encompasses Runners Need and Cycle Surgery and operates 78 stores in total.
- While the outdoor sector is now becoming distinctly crowded – many of the main players continue to expand – Snow & Rock has a degree of protection because of its presence in the buoyant specialist running and cycling markets through the Runners Need and Cycle Surgery fascias. Through the use of shared premises between the brands, it has found a lower cost route to expansion which should bolster profitability.