Signs of revival in the US cheer Billabong chief
The chief executive of struggling surfwear company Billabong, Launa Inman, says the key US market has begun to turn around from recessionary conditions, although Europe remains in the doldrums.
Speaking to shop-eat-surf.com, Ms Inman said there had been a lift in performance in the US, which accounts for half of Billabong's more than $1.55 billion in annual sales.
"Europe is the issue, and Australia has had [its] issues as well," she told the US website. "While America did have its issues, it has turned the corner, particularly in the last six months.
"The most important region is the Americas, and that is where our biggest sales come from, it's got the greatest opportunity and it actually has turned. We are very happy with it."
Ms Inman has been touring the US over the past week as Billabong launches its new seasonal collection.
In fiscal 2012, Billabong posted $750.3 million in sales in the US, down 11.1 per cent as conditions triggered a sales slump.
Ms Inman said Europe and Australian were still challenging markets. "We're not seeing any signs of any green shoots [in Europe]. At times you think you are, then something happens, a change of government ... or something, and we just have to keep managing that."
She suggested Billabong might retain ownership of the skatewear chain West 49 despite the company being desperate for cash as it buckles under the weight of $300 million in debt, flagging sales and management turmoil in the wake of protracted takeover speculation.
Last year, Ms Inman promised to "cut the tail" off withering Billabong brands to allow her global team of designers to spend time on the top four labels that generate more than 70 per cent of annual sales.
Meanwhile, Billabong is thought to be in talks with US private equity firms Sycamore Partners and Altamont Capital Partners to refinance its balance sheet.