Retail Earnings Rewind

If you ever wanted to go on a buying spree for some of the biggest names in clothing, now's the time to do it. Take a look at some of the apparel companies that reported earnings last week, and consider this your shopping list.

Kors Lite
Michael Kors
(NYSE: KORS  ) tops this list not only because it was the first company to report earnings this week, but also because its excellent growth means the company has earned the top spot. Kors hit a home run with earnings of $0.34 per share, growing 62% year over year and blowing away expectations of $0.20. As for the all-important same-store sales growth, Kors saw North American sales grow 38%, with Europe close behind at 24%. With all of this good news, it's no wonder the company increased its full-year EPS expectations.

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Kors, though. Fool analyst Austin Smith is hesitant about Kors because of its very high P/E of 54.9 (compared to the industry average of 21.2). It's an understandable position to take, considering that with such a high P/E, Kors is priced to perfection, and any slip up in earnings could be disastrous. But Kors hasn't made a mistake yet, which is why the stock is up 55% this year.

Abercrombie & Glitch
On the other side of the retail coin is Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) . Abercrombie has been having a tough year, and this quarterly report won't help at all.

In its Q2 report, Abercrombie reported $0.19 earnings per share, a year-over-year decrease of 46%. Even though this did beat analyst expectations of $0.17 per share, these were diminished expectations to begin with, so don't start jumping for joy.

On the brighter side, Abercrombie did increase its revenue 4% to $951.4 million... except this was still below already-low analyst estimates of $994 million. When you consider this, as well as the company's 10% drop in comparable store sales, I'd stay away from this one if I were you.

Ross rising
Don't let Abercrombie get you down -- there's still hope yet for retail. One of the brightest up-and-comers in the sector is Ross Stores (Nasdaq: ROST  ) , a great growth stock that's been reaching new high after new high all year.

This week's earnings report only added gasoline to Ross' meteoric growth; the company earned $0.81 per share, up from $0.64 in Q2 last year, a 27% increase. Meanwhile, comparable store sales rose 7% year over year, and net earnings grew 23% to $182 million.

A stock like Ross, up 51% in the last 12 months, might make some investors suspicious that it can't sustain its growth. However, Ross announced earlier this week that it would keep distributing its quarterly dividend of $0.14 per share, a dividend that was increased from $0.11 at the beginning of this year.

The consistent dividends, coupled with an operating margin at a new high of 12.8%, are signs that Ross intends to keep up the good work, and investors should take note.

Gap-happy
Keeping the good retail times rolling, Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) reported excellent earnings on Thursday evening. The company has made a drastic turnaround in the last few years, its stock price rising 88% this year alone. My guess is that this earnings report only accelerates that growth.

In its second quarter, Gap increased sales 6% year over year to $3.58 billion, with comparable store sales growing 4%. These bumps in sales were due to the company's focus on the U.S. market, which has been a safe haven from the stormy international markets.

All of this retail goodness led to Gap increasing earnings per share 40% to $0.49, which beat analyst expectations by $0.01. Speaking of EPS, the company raised its full year guidance to $1.95-$2.00, up from the previously expected $1.78-$1.83.

It looks like Gap is firing on all cylinders right now, and this report only makes it obvious why the company is one of the three best stocks to buy in 2012.

Foot Locker locking up profits
Last but certainly not least, Foot Locker (NYSE: FL  ) had a darn decent quarter. The company's first-quarter net income was $50 million, or $0.39 per share -- the highest quarterly earnings the company has ever reported. Foot Locker's EPS increased 38% year over year, which makes this the ninth consecutive quarter the company has reported earnings growth.

Foot Locker shares are up 85% this year, and between the company's same-store sales growing 9.8% while decreasing inventory 3%, it looks like that strong growth is pretty sustainable.

Looking back over your shopping list, it's pretty clear that the retail sector is doing just fine. Sure there are some companies like Abercrombie that are dropping the ball, but for every one of those, there are four other great stocks just waiting for you to buy them. We love great stocks like these, which is why we've created The Motley Fool's Top Stocks for 2012 to keep track of our favorite companies. Sign up for your copy here.

Fool contributor Mark Reeth goes shopping at all of these places, which is why he's so fashion forward. Unfortunately, he doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned above. Follow him @ChristmasReeth.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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