Will Guess? Leave Investors Guessing on Earnings?

Earnings season can be both an exciting and scary time for investors. This is especially true of shareholders of retailers this year, as a lot of earnings have come out mixed. But when you own shares of Guess? (NYSE: GES  ) , a seller of apparel and accessories for men and women, what can you Guess will happen? Will the company follow in the shoes of peers like The Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) and Ralph Lauren (NYSE: RL  ) , or will it leave investors Guess-ing what ill fortunes might await it? In the hope of putting everything into perspective, I detailed how its peers have performed and try to put the situation of Guess? into perspective.

Ralph Lauren and Gap have got it going on!
This past quarter has been good for both Ralph Lauren and Gap. In terms of revenue, Ralph Lauren grew by 2.8%, pushing it up from $1.86 billion to $1.92 billion. Similarly, revenue at Gap grew by about 3.1%, rising from $3.86 billion to $3.98 billion.

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Looking at earnings per share, the results for both companies were a little more detailed. Earnings per share at Gap came in at $0.72. This was a penny above estimates and 14.3% higher than what the company earned the same quarter a year earlier. The earnings beat took place in part from increased revenue, but also due to fewer shares outstanding and operating expenses falling to 25.5% of sales this quarter compared to the 27.8% of sales the company reported the same quarter a year ago. However, it should be noted that the company's cost of goods sold rose modestly from 58.8% of sales to 60%.

Ralph Lauren also exceeded analyst expectations, but its results weren't necessarily desirable. For the quarter, the company reported earnings per share of $2.23, three cents above what Mr. Market expected. Though this beat sounds impressive, it falls short of the $2.29 per share the company reported the same quarter last year. According to the company's earnings release, increased revenue was offset by an increase in costs across the board. Throughout the quarter, the company's cost of goods sold rose from 41.2% of revenue to 43.4%, while its selling, general and administrative expenses rose from 39.8% of revenue to 40.7%.

What's this likely mean for Guess??
Although both Gap and Ralph Lauren are considered comparables to Guess?, it appears as though Mr. Market expects the company to perform more similarly to Ralph Lauren this quarter. Earnings per share are expected to fall by 11.6% from $0.43 to $0.38 for the quarter.

A small portion of this decrease is expected to come from a 2.4% drop in revenue, to $613.56 million from $628.83 million. If Mr. Market's calculations are correct, the vast majority of the disparity between revenue and earnings per share will relate to increased costs as a percentage of sales, partially affected one way or another by a change in common shares outstanding.

Foolish takeaway
The Foolish investor should keep in mind that both of its peers outperformed analyst expectations for the quarter. While this doesn't mean that this company will necessarily follow suit, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise if it does as well. While it is nice to understand where both Guess? and its peers stand, the Foolish investor shouldn't spent too much time thinking about what kind of earnings the company will report.

Rather, you would be better off looking at the long-term track record of the company and asking yourself if it makes sense as a buy and hold position. Although revenue has increased almost every year at an aggregate growth of 27% over the past five fiscal years, the fact that net income has been dropping for the past three years is somewhat disconcerting. It is possible that the poor bottom line results recently have been nothing more than a temporary downturn in business, but it could also imply competitive pressures from other market participants. This is something that investors should delve a little deeper into before making an investment decision.

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