Volcom Sells Out

With great sadness, I've set aside my glossary of skateboarding terms. Now that France's conglomerate PPR has made a $608 million bid for Volcom (Nasdaq: VLCM  ) , I may never again have an excuse to include the term "riding fakie" in a business article.

There's plenty of precedent for big companies swallowing subculture brands. Vans, a favorite brand among skaters, is owned by VF (NYSE: VFC  ) , which also quietly holds brands such as North Face, Lee, Lucy, and Wrangler in its portfolio. But considering Volcom's "youth against establishment" motto, how rebellious can this skate- and surf-centered brand remain when lumped in with well-known PPR brands such as Puma and Gucci?

I can't help remembering acquisitions that tarnished or diluted brands, rather than making businesses any better. Talbots' (NYSE: TLB  ) acquisition of J. Jill never really worked out for either retail concept. Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) historical hookup with AOL (NYSE: AOL  ) didn't modernize Time Warner, but rather left AOL falling behind the times, and resulted in a multibillion-dollar loss.

If any Volcom shareholders share my bittersweet feelings, perhaps they're soothed by the premium price PPR plans to pay. Volcom's directors have agreed to sell out at $24.50 per share. Whether Volcom can retain its authenticity among fickle youth will be PPR's problem now.

I always considered Volcom more authentic than, say, Hot Topic (Nasdaq: HOTT  ) , a perpetually lost teen trend-chaser that has tried to make a buck off every fad from the Twilight craze to Charlie Sheen's crazed rants. (Surprise: Hot Topic has marked down Charlie Sheen merchandise already. Duh, winning!)

Still, longtime Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Volcom had a hard time maintaining its indie ways, especially in the last couple of economically difficult years. Its sales have slowed considerably since the heady times when it was known to report 20% to 40% annual revenue gains, and earnings have declined considerably since its peak $1.37 earnings per share in 2007.

Acquisitions, even at premium prices, always make me wonder what the future could have been. For those who invested in Volcom at its lows, the stock's a winner right now. Just try not to think about what the company might have lost in the process.

Volcom is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Volcom. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. For more on this and other topics, check back at Fool.com, or follow her on Twitter: @AlyceLomax. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy will pull off that frontside ollie 180 or die trying.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (8)

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  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2011, at 4:43 PM, LillyDog wrote:

    It's not only depressing to see them bought out/ sold out, but they are already being investigated as well:

    Check this out: http://www.robbinsumeda.com/shareholders-rights-blog/volcom-...

    I wonder if they really asked themselves IF the French Lluxury brand LIKES skateboarders? Or if the company itself has just lost it's rebel youth and cares about buying McMansions??

  • Report this Comment On September 25, 2012, at 1:11 PM, SurferSk8man wrote:

    Yes Volcom has sold out big time and all of the kids on the beach and in the skate parks know it. They are already trashing Volcom on facebook and on twitter.

    I saw a rep from Volcom trying to give away free shirts at an event this weekend and the kids took all the shirts and then threw them into the fire pit on the beach and burned them!

    They were the core brand now they are a joke!

    The major public news travels fast in the action sports industry and Puma and Gucci are not cool to surfers skaters and snowboarders.

    Insiders say they are letting the entire upper management go and they have already started up several new lines to compete with Volcom.

    Volcom will be the next big thing at Walmart before the end of the year!

    Get out while you can...you think Facebook was a dud...wait to see what this stock does!

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2013, at 12:31 PM, JJmxman wrote:

    I have to agree, booth my 14 and 16 year old refuse to have anything to do with Volcum.

    They used the shirts they got for Christmass to clean there motor bikes last weekend and then threw them away! They said no one will be seen wearing Volcum here in san Diego...

    Talk about killing a brand

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