The once fast growing Native sunglasses brand will see flat sales this year due to supply chain issues that caused fill rates to plummet in the second quarter for a new line aimed at mountain athletes, the company’s parent company reported last week.
“Unfortunately, we did not properly anticipate the demand for the product and the result has been a large number of backorders,” said Dave Whalen, president and CEO of A.T. Cross Company, which acquired Native in 2008. “This has been very unfortunate as it has cost us sales and market penetration. Native will be back in position in Q3, but that will not make up for what could have been in the peak season. As a result, we do not expect meaningful growth from the Native brand this year. 2013, however, will be a very strong year for Native.”
Whalen was referring to Native’s new Odyssey line, which uses proprietary N3 lens technology to filter the more intense infrared rays encountered at higher altitudes.
Despite the miscalculation, ATX’s Cross Optical Group (COG), which owns the Native and Costa sunglass brands, remains on pace to reach or exceed $83 million in sales at 15 percent operating margins in 2012, Whalen said. The group reported sales of $27.5 million for the second quarter ended June 30, up 11.2 percent compared to last year. Operating income increased 16.5 percent to $6.3 million. Year-to-date, COG sales are up 14.0 percent to $47.5 million from $41.7 million in 2011. Gross margins in the second quarter were 59 percent, or steady with year earlier levels.
Native, which was focused on participants of human-powered sports such as climbing, biking, running and skiing when COGs acquired the brand in 2008, has added 60 doors so far this year. That includes expanded tests at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, which are among two of Costa’s best accounts. Native is now also distributed at 125 Gander Mountain and 60 Academy doors.
Costa, which traces its heritage to salt-water fishing in Florida, added 400 new doors during the quarter. Nearly 50 of those are in Texas, where sales grew 36 percent to about $10 million in the first six months of 2012. COG believes it can double its Texas sales on its way to reaching $100 million in annual sales by 2016. Nationwide, Costa picked up another 88 Dick’s Sporting Goods, 28 Dillard’s and 62 Hibbett doors.
Sales of Costa’s branded apparel and sunglasses using 580 polarized lenses grew by 50 and 30 percent respectively in the first half. Costa’s prescription sales, which began in March 2011 are on track to double in 2012 as it expands from 2,000 to 2,300 retailers. To boost margins in that business, COG is investing in its own optical lab, which will also cut fulfillment for its prescription sunglasses from 10 to 5 days.