Conn's: Located for Growth

Conn's (Nasdaq: CONN  ) full-year results reflect the housing-market slowdown and overall economic uncertainty. However, its strong numbers for the fourth quarter suggest it's gaining momentum, and the company gave upbeat guidance for the upcoming year.

For the quarter, the appliance and electronics retailer grew revenue 6.3% and earned $0.57 per share. That's a 9.6% increase over last year's $0.52 per share.

While the quarter's earnings were solid, Conn's $1.85-to-$1.95 EPS guidance for fiscal 2009 is more likely responsible for the market's reaction, sending shares up more than 10%. Given the current economic environment, earnings growth of 13% is not too shabby, and it seems to contradict the trend many retailers are seeing.

Coincidentally, on the same day that Conn's reported earnings, the Census Bureau released data showing that from 2006 to 2007, four of the nation's 10 metropolitan areas with the largest population growth were in Texas. These cities -- Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio -- harbor 54 of Conn's 69 stores. The company has eight more stores in other areas of Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. That's why I follow Conn's on my own radar, and it may be one reason for the company's optimistic outlook. You can't mess with Texas' favorable long-term demographic trends.

While national chains like Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) and Circuit City (NYSE: CC  ) are certainly better-known, investors' unfamiliarity with a more regional player like Conn's may help make the company a relative value. Even with today's optimistic surge in price, the retailer trades at barely nine times its expected earnings. To twist a familiar phrase, this Texas-based company may have more cattle than hat.

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