Some investors have likely been searching hard for reasons to love Talbots (NYSE:TLB). While some women's retailers have gained some real fashion sense as shoppers returned to the malls and fueled some red-hot sales figures, Talbots has had the perception that it is one of the frumpier investments. Today, though, investors rejoiced in the retailer's having met previously lowered earnings guidance and lifted the shares.

Talbots' second-quarter profits increased 5%, coming in at $19.4 million, or $0.34 per share. However, earnings included a $0.06-per-share tax benefit. Sales increased 5%, but same-store sales crept up a mere 0.3%. There was more strength in catalog sales (which includes Internet purchases), which boasted a 9% increase.

Despite the fact that these numbers still belie a certain degree of sluggishness for Talbots -- certainly more so than its snazzier rivals, Ann Taylor (NYSE:ANN), Chico's (NYSE:CHS), and J. Jill (NASDAQ:JILL) -- the company said in its press announcement that it has seen heartening early interest in its fall merchandise selection as well as a healthy willingness to shop full price.

Talbots may be a venerated traditional retailer, and we are happy to report that it did attach one of our traditional favorites, the cash flow statement. (For more background on the importance of free cash flow, click here.)

Back to the sales front, while increased interest in full-price goods is a good sign, in the company's conference call (transcript courtesy of Thompson StreetEvents), questions arose as to how full-priced selling historically has not proven a true indicator of Talbots' sales as seasons progressed, with the company responding that inventories have in the past proven to be an issue -- in other words, running out of products that customers were responding to. Meanwhile, the company has touted its upcoming advertising campaign -- another recurring theme with Talbots.

Investors may have been premature today, boosting Talbots shares by about 4% in recent trading. It seems there are still some things investors need to keep their eyes on before choosing Talbots over the rest.

Meanwhile, there are other solid women's retailers to consider, which may very well be more attractive from an investment point of view. (For more on this topic, check out fellow Fool Seth Jayson's recent in-depth look at Ann Taylor, Chico's, and J. Jill.) While Talbots' forward P/E of 14 may sound like a bargain compared with most of these rivals, it may not be ready for the runway quite yet.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.