Restoration Hardware Is Flying High

On news that its newest set of "sourcebooks" -- which is apparently another way to say catalogs -- are going to come in at 3,000 pages and 17 pounds, Restoration Hardware (NYSE: RH  ) jumped 15% in early trading. Just kidding. The company actually jumped on news that it had a fantastic quarter and that it's expecting more fantasticness over the rest of the year.

Apparently Restoration Hardware's $2,995 hand-woven rugs have caught on with affluent -- or ambitious -- homeowners. Investors have gone crazy for Restoration recently, and it looks like it's a trend that's going to continue. The question is, how long can it maintain this level of growth?

Restoration Hardware's first quarter
Over the quarter, Restoration increased comparable sales by 18% and earnings per share by 200%. To put that in context, Williams-Sonoma (NYSE: WSM  ) grew comparable sales by 10% and earnings per share by 20%, in what analysts have considered a very good quarter. Restoration Hardware made it clear that in the world of homewares retailing, it's the current top dog.

Even with its solid, well, everything, Restoration Hardware is still working with small numbers. The company's operating margin was just 1.3%, but that was about a 650% increase from the same quarter last year. Looking again at Williams-Sonoma for a comparison, you'll see a much higher 7% operating margin for the quarter.

In Restoration Hardware's defense, the company is going through a heavy spending period as it changes its real estate layout. The business is closing some of its smaller stores and consolidating them into large gallery-style showrooms. It has also forecast expanding gross margin in the second half of this year.

Can Restoration keep the speed up?
This is a company that's clearly on the right path. It's also a company that has a stock trading at 240 times its trailing-12-month earnings -- Williams-Sonoma is trading at 23 times earnings. Restoration has a huge amount of momentum that it needs to maintain in order to make this seem like a solid investment.

That may happen, though, as the housing market continues to regain strength and consumers get more lax with their hard-earned cash. The problem with all of these highfliers is that it can be difficult to justify the massive cost of the stock. Williams-Sonoma still seems like a less volatile bet, but depending on what your risk tolerance is, it might not be a better stock.

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