And Then the Wheels Came Off

So this is how you roll, Heelys (Nasdaq: HLYS  ) ? You blow away profit targets, but then mow down the near-term outlook as some pre-IPO investors roll toward early exits?

Yes, Heelys has learned to be a heartbreaker for the first time since going public at $21 a pop five months ago. The wheel-popping shoes are undoubtedly popular, but the market is now rightfully worried that the fad is starting to fade.

You wouldn't know it from the great March quarter. Sales soared 262% to hit $49.4 million. Net income rose 399%, to $0.30 a share. Wall Street was only looking for a profit of $0.20 per share on sales of $36.1 million. This is now the second consecutive quarter in which the company obliterated analyst targets. Investors now fear it may be the last.

Heelys talked down its near-term prospects, projecting that net sales and income will grow in the 20%-25% range in the second and third quarters combined. That's obviously slower than the heady spurts that investors have been treated to in the company's brief public life. Heelys is also pushing the two quarters together to emphasize how the real shortfall will come in the third period, pointing out how many back-to-school retailer orders are coming in earlier than they did a year ago.       

Holding open the gate
There are two ways to add insult to injury at Heelys. The first is to mock a Heelys-strapped skater after a wipeout. The second is to do what Heelys did last night: announce a secondary offering after providing a grim near-term outlook.

Heelys insiders plan to unload at least 8 million shares as part of the registration. This isn't a move to raise money for the company itself. Heelys has $69.1 million in cash on its debt-free balance sheet, and there aren't any freshly minted shares being offered as part of the proposed secondary. The move won't boost the number of shares outstanding, though it will fatten the float. But what kind of message does this send? We're still a few weeks away from the end of the lock-up period, and insiders can't wait to bust through the gates.

Patience, people. Patience.

Wheeling towards value
The rub here is that Heelys may appear cheap at the moment. Trailing earnings are now up to $1.39 per share after last night's strong showing. Based on yesterday's close of $36.34, Heelys is sporting a modest P/E ratio of 26. Even if growth does, in fact, slow to a 20%-25% clip, it's a fair price for fast wheels.

With the stock knocked down a few shoe sizes after last night's one-two punch, it is actually trading closer to 23 times trailing earnings and just 19 times next year's bottom line target. Bargain City? Not necessarily.

Unfortunately, this is where "appear cheap" may actually feel pretty expensive. If growth rates decelerate over the next two quarters, what's to stop the trend from continuing over the holidays and into 2008? Hard as Heelys may try to diversify, it's still a one-trick pony. If the kids don't want Heelys, new outlets for growth will be hard to come by.

Heelys is trying to appeal to users who don't know the names of all four Wiggles. The company is promoting its own team of venue skaters, hoping to market itself as an extreme sports brand.

That has worked in the past for companies like Jones Soda (Nasdaq: JSDA  ) , Zumiez (Nasdaq: ZUMZ  ) , Volcom (Nasdaq: VLCM  ) , and even Activision (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) . The difference here is that those companies are better suited to adapt to any seismic shifts in consumer shopping patterns. Well, that and the fact that Heelys still hasn't proven to be cool post-puberty.    

Even Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) , with its hole-filled footwear, is likely to have a longer shelf life than the rolling shoes at Heelys. It seems hard to fathom now, with Heelys rolling along so nicely, but the eventual skidmarks and face plant seem almost inevitable.

Go back through the company's brief publicly traded life:

Volcom and Zumiez are picks for subscribers of Hidden Gems. To see what other small-cap superstars are helping the newsletter crush the market, take a free 30-day trial today.

Activision is a longtime recommendation in the Stock Advisor newsletter service.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz doesn't know the names of all of The Wiggles. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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