By now, regular Motley Fool readers will have grown familiar with outdoor apparel and sporting goods retailer Sportsman's Guide (NASDAQ:SGDE), featured in columns by several writers and Tom Gardner's Hidden Gems newsletter. They will also no doubt have taken note of the company's outstanding financial performance in 2003. Yesterday, the company pre-announced strong growth numbers for Q4 and last year.

Sportsman's Guide shares rose significantly in yesterday's trading (they advanced further, slightly, in early action today) on news that Q4 sales and net income will grow significantly over last year's numbers. Revenues are seen around $71 million or $72 million for the quarter, while EPS is expected to come in between $0.70 and $0.72. (Last year's figures were $66.3 million and $0.53, respectively.)

Profits were boosted by a continued increase in Internet sales, which made up 36% of revenues. Last year, Internet sales, which carry higher gross margins than Sportsman's Guide's traditional catalogs, were less than 30% of the company's total sales. The date of the full release of Sportsman's Guide's latest numbers and the time of its conference call, scheduled for sometime next month, has yet to be released.

Over the last 12 months, shares of Sportsman's Guide are up some 200% and have outperformed the S&P 500 by a wide margin. They've been helped by a market that seems interested in well-stocked, customer-friendly sporting goods companies such as Dick's (NYSE:DKS), though the business continues to be challenged by retail powerhouses including Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT).

Despite that, however, Sportsman's Guide continues to fire on all cylinders. Following a strong Q4, important for any retailer, the company is sitting on a solid balance sheet with no debt and good-looking inventory levels. What's more, it's got the potential for solid cash flows down the road. My colleague's admiration for this company is well founded.

Now what?
Sportsman's Guide was a pick in our old Motley Fool Select investment newsletter, now Tom Gardner's Hidden Gems. Since July 2003, Tom's selections are up 71% vs. an S&P 500 return of 11%. If you like small caps, you might like Hidden Gems. Take a free trial.

Fools are fishing around the company's latest earnings on our Sportsman's Guide discussion board.

Dave Marino-Nachison can be reached at