Should You Load Up the Boat With Johnson Outdoors?

A little company you may never have heard of called Johnson Outdoors (NASDAQ: JOUT  ) is trading at all-time highs once you factor in dividends. The company describes itself as "a leading global outdoor recreation equipment company that turns ideas into adventure with innovative, top-quality products" in the four categories of "Watercraft, Marine Electronics, Diving and Outdoor Gear." With 2013 being the best year it's had in decades, and other companies in related industries such as Brunswick  (NYSE: BC  ) and Marine Products  (NYSE: MPX  )  also doing very well, Johnson Outdoors deserves a closer look.

Johnson Outdoors results
Johnson Outdoors reported its fiscal-year 2013 results on Dec. 6. Net sales grew 3.4% to $426.5 million mostly due to growth in its Marine and Outdoor units along with the introduction of new products. It was the ninth year in a row that new products represented more than one-third of the company's growth.

While 3.4% in growth may not sound like much, Johnson Outdoors closed Watercraft operations in Europe, saw weakness in other areas due to economic conditions in Europe, was hit by unusually bad weather in North America, and exhibited a "continued de-emphasis on low-margin product lines." Considering these headwinds, the growth was impressive. Its Outdoor Gear unit was especially so, with a 25% increase.

Net income for the year exploded 90% to $19.3 million or $1.95 per share. CEO Helen Johnson-Leipold mentioned that the success came despite the "fierce competition for the outdoor enthusiast's discretionary dollars." This suggests there's money to be made in this business, but it doesn't come easy -- which means Johnson Outdoors is doing something right. The company had its highest operating profit in more than 20 years, and it initiated its first dividend in more than five years. New dividends are often a great sign, as a company that puts its money where its mouth is regarding the future tends to be more credible.

In the conference call, Johnson-Leipold gave credit to the company's success, in part due to its "unparalleled knowledge of markets, unique insights into fishing enthusiasts and the technical know-how to turn those insights into winning products." She added, "Innovation has been key to our success and growth to date and it will be even more so in the years ahead." It all sounds very promising for the company. How are others in the industry doing?

Brunswick
Brunswick has operations in the marine, fitness, and bowling and billiards industries. For the first nine months of 2013, net sales rose 3.4% to $2.986 billion, with its Marine Engine division showing a 5% gain. Operating earnings jumped 13% to $290.5 million. CEO Dustan E. McCoy pointed out that the success came despite several challenging comparisons to 2012. He expects full-year 2013 to show earnings per share of between $2.65 and $2.70, or a 27% to 29% hike over last year.

Marine Products
Meanwhile, Marine Products describes itself as "a leading manufacturer of fiberglass boats." For the first nine months of 2013, Marine Products reported that sales jumped 11.9% to $128.5 million. Net income was $5.4 million or $0.15 per share. The success came despite the impact of what CEO Richard A. Hubbell described as "a cold, rainy spring." Marine Products is so confident in its future that it issued a special dividend of $0.03 per share on top of its regular $0.03-per-share quarterly dividend. Analysts expect sales to grow 7.2% next year and EPS to grow 21%.

Foolish final thoughts
Johnson Outdoors is in the right industry at the right time, as evidenced by its results as well as the strong results of Brunswick and Marine Products. It's interesting that with so many areas of the economy being weak, this industry, which almost entirely relies on discretionary spending, is particularly strong. Fools may want to take a peek at Johnson Outdoors; as more people reach retirement age and the economy picks up steam, Johnson Outdoors may go from doing well to doing great.

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  • Report this Comment On January 07, 2014, at 10:28 AM, adamw135 wrote:

    JOUT appears to be a highly cyclical company with high degrees of operating leverage. When you look at this over the past 10-15 years, it is definitely on the upswing in its current cycle, but is it close to a top? why or why not? Trying comparing sales peak to peak... Is there a lot of growth?

    Think about innovation too... how far can a canoe evolve, what about a trolling motor? How quickly are these replaced? How many does 1 consumer need? Is it cheaper to repair or replace?

    What about the family controlling a huge fraction of the business. What is the opinion on that? Are their interest aligned? Are they really looking for growth and future expansion or do they seem comfortable with what they have?

    Thoughts to ponder... also if you think it's great, why don't you own it?

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