When Under Armour (NYSE:UAA) announced third-quarter results last Thursday, the market wasn't quite sure what to think. After all, the bears reasoned, Under Armour stock sported a lofty valuation trading at more than 75 times trailing earnings, and 55 times next year's estimates. And yes, Under Armour did technically beat estimates on both its top and bottom lines and raise guidance. But that beat was slight, and the raise merely brought Under Armour's expected 2014 revenue roughly in line with expectations.
After an initial 6% plunge that morning, however, Under Armour stock quickly rebounded and now trades almost exactly where it sat going in to the report -- a great thing for investors who've enjoyed Under Armour's impressive 60% gain so far in 2014. Now's a great time, then, to dig into what Under Armour has told investors to expect going forward.
Here are five things management told us during last week's conference call.
1. Apparel holds the most impressive growth streak ...
Last quarter marked Under Armour's fourth consecutive quarter of 30%-plus revenue growth, and its 18th consecutive quarter of 20%-plus overall growth. But according to Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, their core apparel business arguably maintains the best streak:
Our core apparel business, the majority of which is sold through our wholesale partners, grew more than 20% for the 20th consecutive quarter. That's five years of consistent growth. So we clearly understand the value of protecting and growing that asset. And to that end, we're focused on continuing that growth streak by being better partners with our wholesale accounts in 2015.
Given Under Armour's already-significant share of the performance apparel market -- which it effectively started in the first place -- investors should be pleased this legacy business continues to put up such great numbers, even as Under Armour's emerging categories grow more quickly.
2. ... but consumers are also finally viewing Under Armour as a footwear company
Speaking of which, Q3 was the third consecutive quarter of 30%-plus growth for Under Armour's footwear business, which the company continues to expect will finish 2014 with sales of over $400 million. As Plank reminded investors on the call, however, that's still less less than 15% of Under Armour's expected $3.03 billion in total 2014 sales. He elaborated:
I love talking about our successes in footwear, given the steep learning curve we know exists in the business. We are successfully making that transition from a company learning how to make great shoes into a truly disruptive voice in the global footwear market. We did it last year with the Highlight Cleat for football and came back this season selling almost 50% more at a retail price $20 higher than last year. [...] We ultimately believe Footwear should be as big [as], if not bigger, than our apparel business.
It's a great testament to Under Armour's brand that it's now able to come back and command even higher price points for similar footwear products only a year later.
And if you think Plank's expected footwear growth as a percentage of UA's total business sounds aggressive, I think perspective is in order. Take Nike (NYSE:NKE), for example, which saw Nike brand footwear sales grow 18% to $4.7 billion last quarter alone. That was good for over 63% of Nike's total quarterly sales, and over 50% more revenue than Under Armour expects to generate in all of 2014.
3. International growth is accelerating
Speaking of small segments with massive potential, don't forget about international sales, growth for which accelerated from 80% year over year last quarter to 94% in Q3. Similar to footwear, Plank elaborated, "Our International business will still be less than 10% of our total revenues for 2014, and we foresee a day where it is at least half our business."
Plank even phoned in to the conference call from Under Armour's Hong Kong office, saying that was one of five stops he's making throughout Asia as part of the company's focus to bring the brand to that massive global audience. Plank also highlighted Under Armour's improving performance in Europe, where it saw significant headwinds following its 2006 launch. Now, Under Armour is on pace to surpass $100 million in revenue for the first time in Europe in 2014.
4. Misty Copeland started something huge
Last quarter, Plank suggested that one day Under Armour's women's business could be as large as, or larger than, its men's business -- a bold statement for a historically male-centric brand. To support that goal, Under Armour launched a new "I WILL WHAT I WANT" campaign aimed at empowering women, starting with this ad:
Plank offered some color on just how effective the spot has been so far:
[W]e realized within one day or two days after the launch of the Misty Copeland commercial that we had a game-changing campaign on our hands. [...] The campaign also gained traction outside the U.S., with Misty's appearance in Paris and Gisele driving interest in her home country of Brazil. The campaign drove tremendous traffic to our e-commerce site, primarily women, 70% of which were new consumers to Under Armour. These consumers engaged with our brand, and more than 350,000 of them downloaded the brand new I WILL WHAT I WANT app, our first effort into bringing the MapMyFitness technology into our brand communications.
And yes, he's referring to none other than Gisele Bundchen, who appeared in a follow-up ad for the campaign, which I highlighted here. In the end, not only did these ads drive significant traffic to Under Armour's burgeoning, high-margin e-commerce portal, but it also led hundreds of thousands of women to download Under Armour's new app based on last year's MapMyFitness acquisition. Perhaps last quarter's assertion that women's sales could be at least as large as men's wasn't so outlandish after all.
5. Next year may not look as impressive
That said, investors shouldn't expect Under Armour's 30%-plus growth to last forever. According to Under Armour CFO Brad Dickerson, "Based on our current visibility, we are planning 2015 net revenues and operating income to each grow approximately 22%, in the range of our long-term growth rates established at our 2013 investor day."
Of course, it helped that Wall Street was "only" expecting revenue to grow by around 23.5%. But it's also worth mentioning that around this time last year, Dickerson was telling investors Under Armour's 2014 net revenue and operating income would be at the "lower end of our long-term growth targets of 20% to 25%." In the end, I can hardly blame Under Armour for wanting to temper expectations a bit. But I also won't be the least bit surprised if Under Armour continues to outperform from here.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple and Under Armour. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple, Nike, and Under Armour. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.