Is Lumber Liquidators Solid in the Long Run?

The latest earnings announcement from Lumber Liquidators (NYSE: LL  )  was solid. The hardwood-flooring specialist reported rising revenue and earnings per share. Revenue came in at $258.43 million for the fourth quarter -- a 23% rise from $210.66 million in the same period in 2012.

Further, Lumber Liquidators' earnings per share of $0.74 reflected a 48% increase from $0.50 in the fourth quarter of the prior year. For the full year, earnings per share were $2.77, and the company's guidance indicates continued revenue and earnings growth in the coming year.

Lumber Liqudators CEO and President Robert M. Lynch remarked, "This was a year of significant accomplishments by our team, and we believe that our intense focus, unified vision and coordinated efforts set the foundation for an exciting 2014."

Lumber Liquidators' revenue and earnings keep climbing
Lumber Liquidators' strong 2013 was the result of successful new store openings coupled with high comparable-store sales. The company opened another 11 stores in the fourth quarter, bringing the total number of new stores to 30 for the year. Lumber Liquidators now boasts 318 stores and plans to open 30-40 new stores in 2014.

Meanwhile, these new store openings helped to boost the company's sales totals. Net sales rose 22.7% year-over-year to $258.4 million. Going forward, the niche floor covering business expects sales of $1.15-$1.20 billion in 2014, along with earnings per share of $3.25-$3.60. 

In short, these rising revenue and earnings results are good news for long-term investors.

Lumber Liquidators' competitors
Lumber Liquidators is often compared to other home improvement retail companies like Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) . Home Depot also recently reported strong fourth-quarter and fiscal-year 2013 results.

Home Depot's net earnings for the fourth quarter were $1.0 billion -- or $0.73 per share. This compares with $1.0 billion or $0.68 per diluted share for the same time period in 2012. The company also declared a 21% increase in its quarterly dividend, to $0.47.

Home Depot is the leader in the broader home improvement retail sector, however. Lumber Liquidators' focus on flooring makes a company like Tile Shop Holdings (NASDAQ: TTS  )  better for a head-to-head comparison.

Tile Shop's current share price is hovering at the $15 mark, far off its 52-week high of $30 and change. While the floor-tile company recently reported solid fourth-quarter and year-end results, the company is facing challenges like rising costs and expenses.

Tile Shop's fourth-quarter 2013 revenue of $57.8 million was a 25% increase from its revenue of $46.2 million for the year-ago period. While the revenue rise is impressive the company could be hampered by costs of goods sold, which rose to 31.2% of sales in the fourth quarter. Moreover, Tile Shop's overall expenses also climbed from 56.5% to 63.6%.

In other words, investors should weigh the company's revenue gains against its rising costs and expenses while also considering the fact that the company is trading far below its 52-week high.

Final "Floorishings"
The broader home improvement sector performed well in 2013, buoyed in part by a recovery in the housing market during the first half of the year. However, the question remains if and when the next wave of the housing recovery will kick in. Moreover, given the current geo-political crisis involving the events in Ukraine, investors should be wary of a pull-back in the broader financial markets.

With that caveat in mind, long-term investors considering Lumber Liquidators should note that the company's solid revenue and earnings results for the fourth quarter and the full year come on the heels of a four year trend. The 23% rise in revenue to $1 billion in 2013 is also a reason to expect solid earnings in the coming year.

Finally, Lumber Liquidators' planned 30-40 store openings this year, net sales expectations of $1.15-$1.20 billion, and earnings per share guidance of $3.25-$3.60 make the hardwood floor store a solid choice for investors who have a long-term view.

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