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Timberland Bets on Brighter Year Ahead

Europe has been strong for the company.

After a challenging 2009, Timberland Co. sees promise in the new year.

“As we look to 2010, we are cautiously optimistic,” Jeffrey Swartz, president and CEO of Timberland, said on the firm’s post-earnings conference call on Thursday. “All eyes here at Timberland are focused on executing with excellence against our long-term strategic plan and we’ll continue to apply lessons learned to return Timberland to profitable growth.”

Without giving specific financial guidance, Swartz said the firm will focus mainly on margin and expense improvements in 2010. Timberland also will continue to refine its boot business in both classics as well as offshoots such as its successful Earthkeepers outdoor brand.

Timberland reported last Thursday fourth-quarter net income of $22.3 million, or 40 cents a share — easily beating Wall Street estimates for 37 cents — up from $13.1 million, or 23 cents, the prior year. Revenues slipped marginally to $387.8 million from $390.6 million. Wall Street, however, expected revenues of $396.7 million.

Footwear sales in the quarter fell about 3 percent to $273.4 million. Total sales in North America were down 7 percent at $215.8 million, and the firm cited, in part, soft boot sales. However, sales in Europe rose 17 percent to $128.4 million.

“European results reflect continued strength in the boots business, growth in all categories of women’s footwear and the benefits from foreign exchange,” said CFO Carrie Teffner on the call.

“Retail sales showed growth with a 10 percent increase in comparable-store sales for the quarter, driven by a double-digit increase in comparable-store sales in the Middle East, the U.K. and Spain,” she added.

For 2009, the firm earned $56.6 million, or $1.01, compared with $42.9 million, or 73 cents. Revenues totaled $1.29 billion, down from $1.36 million a year ago. Wall Street expected earnings per share of 96 cents.

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