We've all heard that cash is king. But a fistful of dollars today deserves the royal treatment more than a wad of cash down the road. We want our companies turning their products into cash -- and we want it fast!

The cash conversion cycle
Enter the cash conversion cycle. It tells you how quickly a company takes its raw materials, makes them into products, and turns sales into cash in the bank. The faster a company can turn over its inventory, the more efficiently it's managing its assets. There are three components of the cycle, and here's how they operate.

• Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO)
Inventory sitting on store shelves or in stockrooms is not doing the company, or the investor, any good. The number of days the inventory sits there measures how quickly management can get those Speedos off the racks and onto the beaches of Malibu. Obviously, lower numbers are better.

DIO = 365 days/(cost of goods sold/average inventory)
• Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)
Outstanding sales are those the company hasn't yet been paid for; they're languishing in accounts receivable. We want our companies to not only make a quick sale but also get paid for it right away. The faster, the better.

DSO = 365 days/(sales/average accounts receivable)
• Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)
While we want customers to pay us quickly, we want to take our sweet time paying our own bills. By paying suppliers slowly, a company has more time to use its cash to earn interest, so we want this number to be higher.

DPO = 365 days/(cost of goods sold/accounts payable)

We don't need an average of our bills outstanding here; we just need to know the ending number.

Putting it all together
With the three pieces of the puzzle calculated, we can figure out how long a company is taking to get paid for the products its customers are buying from inventory, minus the number of days it takes it to pay its suppliers. The cash conversion cycle, or CCC, equals DIO + DSO - DPO.

Women's fashion is often said to be fickle, and keeping the product moving is key to being successful. Here are seven of the top women's fashionistas that are making heads turn:

Company

DIO

+

DSO

-

DPO

=

CCC

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Wet Seal (NASDAQ:WTSLA)

37.2

2.1

27.3

12.0

*

New York & Co. (NYSE:NWY)

49.8

4.6

35.7

18.7

***

Coldwater Creek (NASDAQ:CWTR)

67.8

3.3

48.1

23.0

***

Chico's FAS (NYSE:CHS)

56.8

0.4

27.8

29.4

****

Christopher & Banks (NYSE:CBK)

50.6

1.9

14.1

38.4

***

Charming Shoppes (NASDAQ:CHRS)

70.1

4.4

26.5

48.0

***

The Limited (NYSE:LTD)

81.7

6.2

28.8

59.1

****

Data provided by Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's, and Motley Fool CAPS.

Here we see the degree to which women's retailers are able to turn fashion into cash. Each week, we look for the top companies that make fast cash in various industries, and this group seems to have caught the eye of the 28,000 ranked members of the Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence database.

Not every company that makes fast cash will excel. We want only those that the CAPS community thinks are the best. Four- and five-star stocks are the ones investors believe will outperform the S&P 500.