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Fashion giant in Burnaby shakes off COVID-19 misery to see profits rocket

Company using old school and new school to lure customers
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A fashion giant in Burnaby’s biggest mall is going old school and new school to combat slumping sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roots operates a big store in Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, a mall that has seen multiple stores close up shop during the pandemic, including Frank & Oak and Pink.

But Roots managed to post a handsome profit in its last quarter.

So, how did it manage to do this? Using a mix of new school e-commerce and an old school launch of retro clothing.

The outdoor lifestyle retailer said Thursday it earned a profit of $12.3 million in its fourth quarter even as sales in what is traditionally the strongest period for the company slipped to $99.4 million from $127.5 million in the same quarter last year. 

The company, known for its premium branded sweats and leather goods, recorded a 60 per cent increase in e-commerce sales in the quarter.

"We're seeing some good shifts in the marketplace from a casualization perspective that plays into our strengths," Roots chief executive Meghan Roach said during a conference call. 

"We are a business that has offered these things for quite a long period of time and our proprietary products have made us successful for that reason."

The company recently launched a retro collection, which features the brand's athletic logo from the late 1980s and is marketed with the tagline "classic comfort makes a comeback."

"It's performed well for us in the marketplace," she said. "Consumers are really liking what we're doing, so that's very positive."

Despite the company's increasing move online, Roach said the Roots brick-and-mortar stores continue to be a key focus for the retailer.

"We've been spending a lot of time this past year really learning more about our customers, their lives, the way they live, and what they want from us from a product perspective," she said, noting that 60 per cent of Roots customers say they still want to come into a store to try things on. 

Meanwhile, the retailer said its profit amounted to 29 cents per share for the three-month period ended Jan. 30.

The result compared with a loss of $44.6 million or $1.06 per share a year earlier when the company took a large goodwill charge.

On an adjusted basis, Roots said it earned $16.3 million or 39 cents per share, up from an adjusted profit of $13.3 million or 31 cents per share a year earlier.

Roots said the drop in sales in the fourth quarter was due to temporary store closures due to the pandemic, partially offset by strong online sales.

"Despite the fact that most of our retail locations were closed during what is typically our busiest and most productive time of the year, we were able to deliver profitability for the fourth quarter that was in line with the previous year when all of our stores were open," Roach said in a statement.

"While we continue to face government mandated temporary store closures in Q1 2021, we are confident in our capabilities to manage the business through these challenging times."

Roots shares closed up 42 cents or 13.3 per cent to $3.58 in Thursday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

  • With files from the Canadian Press