Are things looking up for casual footwear and accessories designer and marketer Skechers (NYSE:SKX)? It wasn't long ago -- February, actually -- that Fool contributor Seth Jayson lamented how Skechers' development from a straight shoe supplier to a broad "lifestyle" company was causing some headaches, but early indications are that the company's year is off to a good start.

This morning, the Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based company said it expects first-quarter revenues to come in above the $190 million to $200 million range it previously provided. In last year's first quarter, the company managed $209 million in sales, but that was down from $245 million the year before, as key wholesale revenues and volume fell significantly. "At the close of 2003, we began to experience an improvement in our business," said CFO David Weinberg. "The momentum has continued into the first quarter 2004."

Lower markdowns, meanwhile, are seen to be improving gross margins, and earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter are now seen above $0.10. The company had projected EPS of $0.05 to $0.10 and reported $0.22 per share last year. (Full results are scheduled for release the week of April 19.) Investors are cheering this news, with the shares ticking upward in early trading today.

That's unsurprising. In Seth's article, he noted Skechers' big drop-offs in sales and net income (not to mention rising costs and expenses) for 2003. The fact that the company is now perhaps moving forward again can only cheer those who have money in it.

The market has been kind to footwear-and-lifestyle brands such as Vans (NASDAQ:VANS) and Quiksilver (NYSE:ZQK) over the last 12 months, and Skechers' investors have joined the fun since the company's 2003 earnings announcement in February, when management boasted of an improved balance sheet and hope for the future. If Skechers can return to growth in coming quarters, the fun may yet continue.

Share your thoughts on the year ahead in the shoe business on our Skechers discussion board.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this story.