DSW's Pinched Toes

The shoe biz has walked a hard road lately, but that's no consolation to DSW (NYSE: DSW  ) investors. Today, shareholders seem to have decided that this particular shoe just doesn't fit.

Fourth-quarter net income at the discount shoe warehouse retailer plunged 94% to $1.1 million, or $0.02 per share. Total sales grew 1.1% to $332.5 million, with last year's fourth quarter incorporating an extra week. Same-store sales decreased by 1.7%, compared to a 1% increase in comps last year this time.

This was one heck of a short earnings release. Beyond the basic verbiage about DSW's results, it only included the company's income statement. Investors will have to wait for its SEC Form 10-K to peek at DSW's balance sheet and cash flow statement.

DSW also said that given "the current economic uncertainty," it's not providing full-year guidance. However, it did provide expectations for the first half of this year: negative same-store sales, and a year-over-year drop in profits.

DSW's troubles aren't exactly surprising, though, given the many footwear stocks that have cooled down lately. (Have we suddenly become a nation of barefoot hippies?) Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) , Heelys (Nasdaq: HLYS  ) , Skechers (NYSE: SKX  ) , and Timberland (NYSE: TBL  ) have all taken huge stock-price hits. Deckers (Nasdaq: DECK  ) is a bright spot, but its UGG brand needs to keep growing.

DSW peddles discounted shoes from various brands. Although some of the stocks named above may have relied on faddishness, it seems like a logical question to ask if cash-strapped consumers will be willing to shell out for new, fashionable shoes during an economic downturn. Despite my "hippie" joke, I somehow doubt that most people who hold off on buying shoes will be cavorting barefoot.

DSW shares had fallen about 23% at my last check; it missed analysts' expectations by $0.04 per share, and of course the tidings about 2008 were absolutely no consolation. (Shares of Retail Ventures (NYSE: RVI  ) , which owns more than half of DSW's shares, dropped precipitously today, too.) Given the nonspecific yet daunting impression of 2008 so far, it seems to me that investors have plenty of time to wait and see how things progress (or regress?) at DSW before trying its shares on for size. Hopefully, it won't curl anybody's toes.

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