What happened

In response to an earnings report that showed fourth-quarter results soaring past Wall Street's projections, shares of the niche retailer Duluth Holdings (NASDAQ:DLTH) rose by more than 12% as of 11:05 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.

businessman giving thumbs-up

Image source: Getty images.

So what

Here's a review of the key numbers from the quarter that put traders in a good mood:

  • Revenue rose 24% to $174.7 million, driven by 15% growth in direct sales and 106% growth in retail sales. This figure was far better than the $163 million in revenue that market watchers had expected.
  • The promotional retail environment caused gross margins to fall by 70 basis points to 55.4%. When combined with higher spending on new-store openings and a surging tax bill, this resulted in a net income decline of 20% to $14 million, or $0.43 per share. However, this figure easily exceeded the $0.34 in earnings per share (EPS) that Wall Street was expecting.
  • Duluth opened two new retail stores during the fourth quarter.

In 2017, Duluth's management team is targeting 10 to 12 new store openings and is offering up the following guidance:

Metric2016 Actual2017 GuidanceYear-Over-Year 
Change at Midpoint
Revenue $376 million $455 million to $465 million 22%
Adjusted EBITDA $41.2 million $47 million to $49.5 million 15%
GAAP EPS $0.66 $0.66 to $0.71 4%

Duluth Trading's 2017 guidance. Data source: Duluth Holdings.

By contrast, Wall Street expects only $444 million in revenue and EPS of $0.69 for the full year. 

The better-than-expected fourth-quarter results mixed with bullish revenue guidance for 2017 sent the company's share price soaring.

Now what

Eagle-eyed investors might notice that Duluth's 2017 guidance falls a bit short of the company's long-term financial growth targets. Specifically, management had previously told investors to expect top-line growth of 20% and net income growth of 25%. Since the company's profit guidance is lower than its long-term target, CEO Stephanie Pugliese stated the following:

We continue to believe these goals are achievable in the long term; however, over the next 18 to 24 months, we will be making substantial investments in growth, primarily by scaling our retail store expansion at a faster rate than previously planned.

Traders appeared to overlook this weak profit guidance and sent shares screaming higher anyway. This reaction hints that they applaud the company's decision to forgo short-term profits in exchange for turbo-charging the top line. That's a trade-off that I, for one, applaud, so I can't blame the markets for bidding up shares today.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.