Although its annual revenues and operating earnings decreased, Asics Corp’s annual results beat the guidance that the company had given last November.

Net sales for 2020 declined by 13.0 percent to 328.7 billion yen (€2.58bn-$3.12bn) due to the impact of the Covid pandemic, including a drop of 14.0 percent in the fourth quarter to ¥80.5 billion (€633.1m-$766.4m). Asics said its revenues topped expectations due to robust sales of performance running products, as well as a strong performance in Greater China, where it grew by more than 25 percent. E-commerce was also a bright spot, with sales rising by 8.6 percent.

The gross margin contracted by 1.0 percentage points to 46.5 percent for the year, weighed down by poor sales in Japan and purchase order cancellations fees. The company recorded a ¥16.1 billion (€126.6m-$153.3m) loss in 2020, compared with a ¥7.0 billion profit in 2019, hampered by lower sales, fixed costs incurred during temporary store closures, as well as the cancellation of lease contracts.

Regionally, Japan had the worst performance during the year, while China was the shining star. In constant currencies, sales fell by 22.0 percent in Japan, by 14.9 percent in North America and by 8.3 percent in Europe. China fared much better, as sales of performance running shoes helped lift revenues by 6.4 percent over 2019 on a constant-currency basis. Sales increased in Oceania by 11.2 percent, due to strong sales in the running segment as well as in the Sports Style category. Revenues were off by 20.9 percent in Southeast Asia and South Asia and by 11.8 percent in the rest of the world.

Despite challenging market conditions and store closures, Asics EMEA’s profits soared by 60.3 percent year on year, largely due to operational efficiencies and strong online sales. Its European subsidiary reported a growth of 134.2 percent in e-commerce.

Last year, Asics confirmed its position as the number one running brand in Europe, according to NPD data. The brand gained 3 percentage points in market share in footwear in the “Made For and Used For” Running category above €90 in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In these markets, it also gained 2 percentage points in tennis footwear and 10 percentage points in indoor sports shoes.

Overall, Asics’ sales in the Performance Running segment declined by 2.9 percent over the full year in constant currencies, down to a total of ¥160.1 billion (€1.26bn-$1.52bn), as a 26.3 percent rise in China was offset by weaknesses in Japan and North America, and to a lesser extent Europe. E-commerce rose by 106 percent due to the expansion of its Shoe Finder program, which helps consumers to find out the products that suit them the most. But the segment’s operating profit improved by 98.0 percent to ¥9.0 billion (€70.7m-$85.7m). The new Blast and Ride series were the highest sellers.

Currency-neutral sales went down by 13.5 percent in Sports Style, with a sharp fall in North America offsetting strong growth in China. There were declines of 24.4 percent in Apparel and Equipment and of 19.7 percent in the Core Performance category.

The lifestyle-oriented Onitsuka Tiger brand saw sales fall by 25.6 percent because of a drop in foreign tourism all over the world. Asics opened flagship stores for the brand in New York, Milan and Shanghai, with 11 new openings in total in 2020.

The group has not released any guidance for 2021.

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