"I am extremely proud of this company-wide effort" is how Williams-Sonoma
The company's namesake brand continued to grow. Pessimists will note that, at "just" 4.8%, growth in fourth-quarter same-store sales was down from last year's 5.3%. For the year, same-store sales at Williams-Sonoma stores were up 6.7% after rising 3.3% in 2002. That's sold!
The company's other big concept, Pottery Barn, reversed a loss of 0.8% in same-store sales in last year's fourth quarter to a gain of 4.3%.
How do these fourth-quarter results stack up against other specialty retailers? Yuppie outlet Pier 1
Against that backdrop, a 4.1% sales increase could be regarded as OK, but not worthy of a letter home to mom.
What is good news is that operating margins increased for the fiscal year from 8.6% to 9.3%. That said, they still lag those of most specialty retailers, although, impressively, they do beat Wal-Mart's
As for valuation, the stock is up over 55% for the last 52 weeks, and trades at a rich 25 times trailing earnings. Company guidance for 2004 projects earnings increasing at least 15% to between $1.52 and $1.56 a share. That seems reasonable, based on the company's strong sales growth and focus on improving margins.
Williams-Sonoma has a right to be proud of its results. Investors, though, might want to look at other investments that trade at earnings multiples closer to their expected earnings growth rates.
Fool contributor W.D. Crotty owns many Williams-Sonoma products and enjoys trying their gourmet items. W.D. does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.