Thule Group achieved better-than-expected results in 2020 by riding the strong global bike trend that started in June. Sales rose by 11.2 percent from the previous year to 7,828 million Swedish kronor (€777.1m-$942.7m) or 13.1 percent in constant currencies.
In its annual report, the Swedish company attributed these results to innovation, boasting that it won several design awards and tests for products such as the newly launched Thule Spring stroller, the Thule EasyFold XT bike carrier and the Thule Motion XT roof box.
On a constant-currency basis, the company’s Sport&Cargo Carriers category – which includes roof racks, roof boxes and carriers for bikes, water and winter sports equipment and the Thule Tepui rooftop tents – grew by 17 percent. RV Products – awnings, bike carriers and tents for RVs and caravans – advanced by 9 percent, while the Active with Kids segment surged by 37 percent. On the other hand, the Packs, Bags & Luggage category declined by 21 percent in constant currencies.
In Europe and the rest of the world, revenues jumped by 14.2 percent from the previous year on a constant-currency basis. Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Nordic countries, South Korea and Eastern Europe performed well. However, there were lower sales in countries where the most restrictive measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 were imposed during the summer, such as France, Italy, Russia and South Africa. In the Americas, revenues progressed by 10.1 percent in constant currencies.
Overall, the gross margin improved by 1.1 percentage points to 41.3 percent, and net income reached SEK 1,166 million (€115.8m-$140.4m), versus SEK 883 million in 2019.
In the fourth quarter, sales soared by 32.6 percent from the year-ago quarter to SEK 1,605 million (€159.3m-$193.2m), the gross margin expanded by 1.8 percentage points to 40.0 percent, the underlying Ebit margin climbed by 9.1 percentage points to 15.0 percent and net income jumped to SEK 164 million (€16.3m-$19.7m) from SEK 30 million for the fourth quarter of 2019. RV Products continued to perform well thanks to positive market growth in Germany. Hleathy growth was reported in the U.K. as well as Eastern Europe, except for Russia.
The group did not release any guidance for 2021. However, it described at length its investments in technology, marketing, sales and sustainability.
Thule continued to invest in processes and equipment in 2020 and started using a single global enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. In January 2021, a new 5,000-square-meter development center in Hillerstorp, Sweden, was also completed, hosting several departments including product development, design, construction, prototype and tooling production. The new building enables the continued expansion of the global Thule Test Center, which is being extended with additional testing possibilities during 2021, to be completed by early 2022.
The group met its sustainability goals for 2020, which were set in 2014: All its electricity is now coming from renewable sources, while CO² emissions from its facilities have decreased by 65 percent, as compared to 2014. The company’s board has decided on new sustainability targets for 2030. It is committing to a 46 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from its own production facilities by the end of 2030, compared with a 2019 base year. It also commits to have 100 percent purchased renewable electricity at its own production facilities and offices with more than 12 employees by the end of 2030, as compared to 94 percent in 2019, as well as a 28 percent absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions related to purchased goods, upstream logistics and downstream logistics.
Efforts were also made last year to develop the lifestyle image of the Thule brand, which accounted for 86 percent of sales in 2020, through improvements to the website and a social media presence. It is opening additional DTC e-commerce markets through thule.com. In 2020, this channel, which was already available in the U.S., Sweden and Denmark, was opened to the German and Dutch markets, with online sales increasing significantly. In 2021, the e-commerce channel will be launched in other markets such as France and the U.K.