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DSW Is Running in Stride

DSW (NYSE: DSW  ) , a specialty footwear retailer offering 2,000 styles to choose from, is putting together a nice little track record -- albeit a short one. The company's shares have been trading only since the end of June, but it appears to be getting off on the right foot. Its stock trades near previous highs.

I looked at this enterprise a quarter ago, following the release of second-quarter figures, and came away impressed with the company's performance. The results from the latest period do little to change that sentiment.

Its top line continues to grow at a nice pace. Net sales were higher by 15.2% compared with the same period a year ago. Part of this growth is attributable to its respectable comparable same-store sales increase of 3.5%.

New store openings are driving the remainder of its growth. The company opened 13 additional units in the latest period alone. With its stated goal to open approximately 30 stores per year from FY 2005 to FY 2009, it looks as though DSW is well on track to meet this objective. I would be concerned if this unit growth came at the expense of an overleveraged balance sheet, but that's not the case here. DSW opened 30 units during FY 2004 -- and over the previous five years, its compound annual growth rate for units is 24.3%. And all the while, the company managed to maintain a clean balance.

That DSW has been able to grow at such at a high rate, without being overburdened with debt, is a positive sign. Having said that, investors will want to monitor the company's profitability. New stores have preopening costs associated with them that can negatively affect operating margins. The company did not elaborate on the reason operating margins fell to 5.9% from its year-ago high of 6.4%, but given that FY 2004 operating costs were higher than FY 2003's, because of pre-opening expenses, it's a good bet that the same phenomenon is at play here.

Despite its profitability challenges, DSW's earnings per share came in at $0.25. That's $0.03 higher than consensus estimates. Looking forward, analysts are projecting that the company will earn $1.21 per share next fiscal year.

With shares trading at roughly 20 times next year's earnings, it's difficult to call this stock dirt-cheap. But we must keep in mind that its blended compound annual rate of growth for units, sales, and operating profits over the past five years is 34.8%. With this history of performance behind it, as well as current and expected growth, DSW's stock certainly warrants consideration.

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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares of any companies mentioned.

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