Timberland's Uphill Battle

Timberland (NYSE: TBL  ) started the year off weak, and the trend continued in the second quarter. The company lost $0.31 a share in the quarter, and revenues fell 1.1%. However, with a powerful brand name and some design work, this company may once again start marching up the mountain.

Slower sales of boots, kids' footwear, and apparel hurt Q2 results. But the Timberland PRO series, designed for skilled tradespeople and working professionals, continued to do well. Not surprising, given its reputation for quality and durability.

The weakness in boots and kids' footwear was partly due to a strategy designed to restrict sales of its product from lower-priced channels and maintain its status as a premium brand. It also needs improvements in other areas to boost results.

Timberland boots appeal to hikers and those that enjoy the outdoors. But, outside of that, they are no longer fashionable. By making boots stylish again, it will appeal to consumers, particularly women. I know my wife said she would buy a pair if they were made to look more appealing. (That groan you hear is me opening my wallet.)

Apparently coming to this realization, it is focusing on developing products that are, according to its CEO, "more relevant products that better reflect the needs of our key consumer groups." While the third quarter is expected to remain weak, cost cutting should help offset top-line weakness in the fourth quarter.

The downtrend in boots seems to be an industry phenomenon. Deckers Outdoor (Nasdaq: DECK  ) has also had weak sales of its Teva brand. But if Timberland can get other products to market and moving off the shelves, I believe its reputation for fine quality will help re-establish its imprint. At a P/E of 17, compared to 37 for Deckers, this may be the time to snap up shares.

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Fool contributor Larry Rothman is happy to receive feedback, and promises to read it when not being wrestled by his three children. He doesn't have any positions in the companies mentioned.


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