While the stock market whipsawed last week, shares of shoemaker Skechers (NYSE:SKX) held their ground. The company has been aggressively expanding outside the U.S. the last few years, helping it find new growth. The last quarter of 2017 saw that trend continue and improve, giving investors reason to feel confident even in light of recent market volatility.

SKX Chart

Data by YCharts

Looking back on a successful 2017

Skechers' stock rallied in the past year as the company grew sales and profits by double digits. Growth accelerated in the final quarter of the year, with revenue and adjusted earnings increasing 27% and 425%, respectively. The adjustment accounts for a one-time charge of $99.9 million from recent tax reform.

Metric

2017

2016

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$4.16 billion

$3.56 billion

16.9%

Earnings per Share

$1.14

$1.57

(27.4%)

Adjusted Earnings per Share

$1.78

$1.57

13.4%

Chart by author. Data source: Skechers quarterly earnings.

The outlook was positive for the first quarter of 2018 as well. Revenue is expected to fall between $1.175 billion and $1.200 billion, as much as a 4% increase over last year. Earnings per share were projected at $0.70 to $0.75, as much as a 25% year-over-year rise.

Not long ago, Skechers stock struggled as business stalled. Part of the reason was the company's new aggressive strategy to grow internationally, an effort that required a great amount of resources and investor patience to accomplish. Now, the strategy is paying off for those who were willing to buy on pessimism and wait it out.

A new American export

What has emerged is a new American apparel favorite overseas. Skechers is a familiar brand here in the U.S., but those who spend time out of the country can attest that the brand is on the rise internationally as well. Doubters need only look at the numbers.

Sales during the fourth quarter outside the U.S. accelerated to their strongest pace in years. International wholesale increased 40%, and foreign wholesale and retail made up nearly 53% of revenue. That marks the first full year in which the company made over half its revenue overseas. Skechers is firing on all cylinders right now as domestic business has improved, too.

Full-Year 2017 Metric

Year-Over-Year Change

International Wholesale

24.3%

Domestic Wholesale

4.1%

Global Retail Sales

21.9%

International Same-Store Sales 

10.1%

Domestic Same-Store Sales 

6.4%

Chart by author. Data source: Skechers quarterly earnings.

Asia is one area of particular note. A 76% increase in sales was reported on Singles Day in China, a popular shopping holiday akin to Black Friday in the U.S. Extensive work has also been done in key markets like South Korea, where the company set up a new joint venture with a local firm to help boost sales. At year end, there were over 19,000 Skechers stores operated by either distribution partners, joint ventures, or franchisees, and the company operates over 645 retail stores worldwide.

A new ultra-modern Skechers storefront in China. The building is surrounded by high rises, and has metal sheeting exterior.

Skechers is growing fast in China. Image source: China.

Management says that international expansion is still its greatest opportunity. The company's advertising strategy appears quirky compared with the fight between Nike and Under Armour over today's hottest athletes. Skechers takes a more eclectic approach, focusing on retired superstars, pop singers, and other icons of the moment.

The countries called out as areas of emphasis are also unique: Uzbekistan, Indonesia, and Chile, among them. It's an approach that's working, though, and the plan is to continue more of the same all the while growing the footprint of existing sales points.

The global consumer is supporting expansion; profits are on the rise from years of investment in that area; and management announced a new share repurchase program of up to $150 million through 2021. In short, while Skechers may not be the sexiest of apparel names out there, it looks like one of the best bets in the industry right now.

Nicholas Rossolillo owns shares of Skechers. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Nike, Skechers, Under Armour (A Shares), and Under Armour (C Shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.