Analysts and fund managers who dabble in the world of retailers often decry the fickle whims and tastes of the consumer, without realizing that they themselves are little better. Look at the case of apparel maker Oxford Industries (NYSE:OXM). Pre-market trading suggested that a 2% downward revision on full-year earnings would lead to a much nastier drop in the stock. The stock is down almost 14%.

Not that it seems that investors are going to care too much, but second-quarter results were actually respectable. Sales climbed 7% and beat the average estimate, while the earnings-per-share figure of $0.62 also slightly beat the estimate and the company's own prior guidance of $0.55-$0.60.

The margin picture was fine -- gross margin improved about half a percentage point, and the operating margin moved up to 7.3% from 6.6% a year ago. That allowed a 7% top-line gain to morph into a 21% gain in earnings. Other metrics like inventories (up 3%) and accounts receivable (up 6%) looked fine, but as Rich Smith rightly pointed out yesterday, it'll be worth waiting for the 10-Q to see the breakdown of inventory between finished goods and raw materials.

Looking at the business units, top-line growth in menswear and the Tommy Bahama business was pretty modest, while womenswear jumped 26% on higher orders from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT). Unfortunately, the Land's End business at Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) isn't performing so well, and management doesn't seem to be expecting a big turnaround there until/unless Sears management figures out what it's doing with the brand.

I left off my last column on Oxford with the Milquetoast caveat that I'd need to do some further digging before getting more definitively bullish or bearish on the stock. Unfortunately, the picture is still a bit mixed. I do believe that management can do better, but the return on capital and valuation just aren't quite appealing enough for me to bet on them with my own cash.

Try on more Foolishness for size:

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).