US: Russ forges ahead

Acquisitions in the pipeline as sales in infant, youth and gift sectors improve
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Russ Berrie has entered into agreements to acquire two infant and youth firms to further strengthen its presence in the sector, after reporting a strong performance in 2007.

The acquisitions of branded furniture company, LaJobi Industries, and infant bedding and accessory products firm, CoCaLo, should be completed “shortly”, the firm said in statement.

In order to finance the acquisitions, the firm intends to expand its credit facility up to $175 million.

Full year net sales increased almost 12.5 per cent to $331.2 million, compared with $294.8 million in 2006. This included healthy increases of 10.9 per cent and 13.8 per cent in the Infant and Youth and Gifts segments, respectively.

Gross profit for the year was $125.4 million, or 37.9 per cent of net sales, compared with $118.1 million, or 40.1 per cent of net sales in the previous year.

For its fourth quarter the firm recorded net sales of $84.5 million, up 14.3 per cent on 2006 efforts. Again, increased sales in the Infant and Youth and Gift segments, notably of Kids Line and Sassy products, drove the overall increase.

Gross profit for the quarter dipped slightly to $25.3 million, or 30 per cent of net sales, from $29.5 million or almost 40 per cent of net sales for the same period in 2006.

Bruce Crain, president and CEO, said: “Both our Infant and Juvenile and Gift segments delivered considerable growth in 2007, reflecting the success of our strategy to focus on design-led and branded product development.

“Across our businesses, we introduced a significant number of new branded, proprietary and licensed products, and continued our focus on cost containment, which strengthened our position in all our markets.

“LaJobi’s leadership position in the infant furniture business will allow us to penetrate a complementary category in the Infant and Juvenile industry, and will provide us with branded products that are the cornerstone of any nursery.

“CoCaLo’s well-designed branded products represent a key opportunity to further extend our presence in infant bedding and accessories.”

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