Valuations & Acquisitions: Tough Time to Compete, Worse Time to Sell
It must be a sign of the times when even a profitable catalog business can’t sell.
That was Sportif USA CEO John Kirsch’s position when I caught up with him just before Thanksgiving. He’d just put the Waterfronts Nautical catalog on the selling block. And as he aimed to sell the 21-year-old nautical-themed apparel catalog started by his father, Kirsch reflected on some hard lessons.
The economic crisis has turned all markets upside down. There were times Kirsch thought a buyer might materialize, but those deals fell through. Needless to say, these times require patience.
Kirsch’s father, John Sr., began by selling tennis shorts from the back of the family’s station wagon. He gradually built a reputation for quality, innovative outdoor and sports apparel. Today, the $15 million Sportif USA includes the Aventura, Sportif and Waterfronts Nautical catalog businesses.
Growth by Division
The parent company includes two wholesale divisions: a men’s division that designs and contract-manufactures the Sportif and W65 lines of men’s casual nautical/coastal clothing, and a women’s division that designs and contract-manufactures the Aventura Clothing line of “eco-friendly” women’s casual clothing and accessories.
“We needed to focus our limited resources — namely, capital and people — behind Aventura,” Kirsch says. “It’s growing 30 percent a year and has been profitable since its launch four years ago.”
In a strange sense, Kirsch’s decision to sell the title in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression is appropriate. Good timing has always eluded Waterfronts Nautical — which accounts for about 35 percent of the parent company’s sales — like eight years ago when it was about to unveil a major merchandise launch and Sept. 11 happened.
“After 9/11, our sales fell off 60 percent for fall 2001,” Kirsch recalls. “We couldn’t have picked a worse time for that launch.”