Breathing Heavy at the Finish Line

After Finish Line's (Nasdaq: FINL  ) proposed buyout of shoe and hat retailer Genesco (NYSE: GCO  ) collapsed well short of completion, the athletic footwear retailer suffered the heartburn of $81.5 million in merger-related costs.

These charges resulted in a fourth-quarter loss of $38.8 million, or $0.82 per share. Even after excluding the one-time costs, the company earned just $0.45 per share from continuing operations, 11.8% below last year's $0.51. The figure did trample the $0.35 predicted by analysts.

However, Finish Line is definitely feeling winded from sluggish consumer spending, as revenue fell 10% to $382.8 million, while the key retail metric of comparable-store sales fell by 6%.

Sales of higher-margin products, a gross margin improvement of 30 basis points, and inventory reduced by 4% per square foot were positive notes in the release. Still, with virtually every footwear retailer from well-heeled Foot Locker (NYSE: FL  ) to the industry's top performers, such as Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS  ) , feeling the pain of a threatening economic recession, this industry looks to be in for a long test of endurance.

Finish Line shares have been showing strength recently, more than tripling from their recent low of $1.48. The retailer is selling at 13 times the $0.37 per share from continuing operations that it earned in fiscal 2008. That doesn't sound too cheap considering the lagging performance Finish Line has experienced recently, and I think these shares probably lack significant upside from here, considering consumer weakness. The retail scene is tough enough for companies with strong operations and financials. While patient Fools may have the fortitude to run this arduous race with the retailers, others wishing to lace up a footwear stock in their portfolio might find manufacturers like Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) a more comfortable fit.

Slide your dogs into this Foolishness:


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