Cosmetics specialist e.l.f. Beauty (NYSE:ELF) announced its holiday-quarter results this week. And, as expected, the numbers reflected a challenging sales environment, with revenue growth slowing sharply and profitability turning lower. Management also issued a conservative forecast for the new fiscal year.

More on that 2018 outlook in a moment. First, here's how the latest headline numbers stacked up against the prior-year period:


Q4 2017

Q4 2016

Year-Over-Year Change


$82 million

$76 million


Net income

$21.5 million

$6.6 million


Earnings per share




Data source: e.l.f. Beauty.

What happened this quarter?

After accelerating for two straight quarters, sales growth dove during the period, consistent with management's warning back in early November.

A woman applies makeup in the mirror.

Image source: Getty Images.

Highlights of the quarter included:

  • Revenue grew by 7% to mark a sharp deceleration from the prior quarter's 28% spike. That put the retailer right at the reduced $270 million forecast executives had issued a few months ago. As a result, e.l.f Beauty's sales were up 18% for the year, compared to a 20% increase in 2016.
  • Gross profit margin dipped to 58.5% of sales from 59.3% as benefits from innovative product launches were offset by higher inventory charges.
  • Operating margin worsened slightly, dipping to 18.5% of sales from 19.6% a year ago.
  • e.l.f benefited from reduced interest expenses and a large tax benefit that, together, pushed net income higher by over 200% even though operating profit held steady at $15 million.
  • Cash on hand dipped to $10 million from $15 million a year ago as long-term debt fell to $148 million from $156 million.

What management had to say

Executives focused their comments on the broader 2017 numbers. "We are pleased to report our results for fiscal 2017, including an 18% increase in net sales and strong earnings growth," CEO Tarang Amin said in a press release. "This performance demonstrates the strength of the e.l.f. brand, driven by our mission to make luxurious beauty accessible for all," Amin continued.

Management highlighted a few noteworthy accomplishments from the past year, including advancements in brand recognition, an expanded retailing reach, and the introduction of 128 new products. "We remain excited about our opportunities as we begin fiscal 2018 and expect another year of significant accomplishments toward our long-term goals," Amin said.

Looking forward

The cosmetics specialist's 2018 forecast reflects challenging industry conditions that will keep pressure on both sales and profit growth. For the full year, it predicts revenue gains of between 6% and 8%, which would mark the first time that annual growth dipped into the single digits in three years. This forecast assumes that e.l.f.'s sales footprint won't expand much outside of the recent partnership it established with Ulta Beauty.

Management expects adjusted profits will rise at the same rate as sales, while net income should tick lower to $31 million from $32 million in 2017. Executives say they see lots of long-term growth opportunities, but industry dynamics have them feeling cautious about making big advancements over the next few quarters.

Demitrios Kalogeropoulos has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends e.l.f. Beauty, Inc. and Ulta Beauty. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.