Yesterday, I wrote about Kimberly-Clark's (NYSE:KMB) quarterly earnings. Today, competitor Playtex Products (NYSE:PYX) is under the spotlight. The results are similar, but there's one important difference between the companies. We'll get to that in a moment.

Playtex reported a 3% decrease in total sales revenue for its third quarter, which came in at $142.4 million. Operating income increased almost 2% to $21.4 million, and net income jumped 19% to $4 million, or $0.06 per diluted share. Adjusting the earnings comparison to exclude various charges and gains related to, in part, a set of restructuring initiatives, net income increased roughly 15% to $5.2 million, or $0.08 per diluted share.

For the nine-month period, total sales revenue decreased 2% to $498.7 million. Operating income decreased 4% to approximately $88 million, and net income fell 3% to $23.7 million, or $0.37 per diluted share. Again, adjusting for the special items, net income increased 9% to $28.3 million, or $0.45 per diluted share.

It's important that these sales declines are put into context. Playtex divested itself of some brands that it believed were no longer necessary to its future prosperity. Sales growth excluding that impact -- the so-called sales of retained brands -- actually increased by 7% for the quarter and by 6% for the first nine months of the fiscal year. That's a lot better, isn't it? Sales in all of Playtex's divisions saw increases, but the skin-care portfolio saw a very nice double-digit rise of 19%.

Cash flow from operations for the nine-month period didn't decline too much -- it was $84.4 million, versus $85.1 million last time around -- but free cash flow declined since capital expenditures soared almost 89% to $12.3 million.

Though there wasn't as much of the free green around, shareholders should be optimistic about the company's ability to free itself of more than 17% of its debt. It's also been repurchasing note obligations, thus reducing interest expenses. The company also bought back $11.6 million of its stock during the past nine months.

Like Kimberly-Clark, Playtex is trying to navigate the tough inflationary waters. Ridding itself of lower-margin lines is a smart thing to do -- sacrificing some sales revenue in the short term is fine. The company stated that its gross margin for the quarter remained stable, which is encouraging news.

However, unlike Kimberly-Clark, Playtex doesn't sport a dividend. This might be an issue with some investors who like to be paid to wait out the volatility of the market . and it is for me. It all comes down to alternatives -- why buy a consumer-goods maker that doesn't share some of the spoils? Dividends are what having a core, defensive holding in your portfolio is all about. I concede that a five-year chart shows that Playtex has more than held its own with Kimberly-Clark. Nevertheless, companies like Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) are, to me, blue-chip consumer entities in part because of their dividend qualities.

Playtex is a fine company. It is being properly managed in terms of restructurings, debt extinguishment, and brand focus. Don't get me wrong -- the quarter was a good one. Earnings beat estimates by a penny, and I don't think you'd be risking a lot if you already hold shares and intend to hold them for a long time. If you're thinking about buying now, however, you might want to wait to see whether the stock might move closer to the low end of its 52-week range. But as far as I'm concerned, there are simply better ideas out there in terms of income generation.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns none of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.