• Q4 net income up 8% to $39.5m from $36.7m
  • Net sales fell 5% to $501.1m from $526.1m
  • Praised "diligent expense management" 

Outdoor apparel and footwear firm Columbia Sportswear Company has managed to offset falling fourth quarter sales to post an 8% rise in profit.

The Portland, Oregon based company, which also owns the Mountain Hardwear and Sorel brands, said sales in the three months to 31 December, were hurt by unseasonably mild weather in North America, general consumer caution, and a more promotional environment in key markets.

This "caused higher order cancellations and fewer reorders from wholesale customers, as well as lower than expected direct-to-consumer sales, primarily in the US," the company said.

It added that $9m in factory-direct shipments of spring orders for international distributors shifted into the first quarter of 2013.

During the fourth quarter, US sales fell 7%, and a decline of 20% was seen in the Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) region. This was partially offset by 6% rise in sales in the Latin America/Asia Pacific (LAAP) region, and a 5% rise in Canada.

Apparel, accessories and equipment sales were down by 2% to $392.3m, while footwear sales dropped 14% to $108.8m.

For the full year, net income fell 3% to $99.9m, down from $103.5m the year before. Net sales slipped 1% to $1.67bn from $1.69bn.

"Diligent expense management throughout the year enabled us to deliver solid results during what proved to be another year of unseasonably warm weather in North America," noted Tim Boyle, Columbia's president and chief executive officer.

"As a result, despite a slight decline in 2012 full year sales, we were able to achieve 8% operating margin, similar to 2011 operating margin of 8.1%."

In its first look at the year ahead, the company sees net sales flat with 2012 at $1.67bn, and full year operating margin of between 7.5% and 8.0% of sales. First quarter sales are also likely to be flat with the year before at $333.1m.