"I'd lay my head on the railroad tracks .but the railroad don't run no more." -- Warren Zevon, "Poor Poor Pitiful Me"

Can Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR) actually still disappoint anybody? I mean, this troubled retailer of housewares has been, well, troubled for so long now that I didn't think anybody would really be surprised by more weakness in the operations. Well, I guess I'm wrong, because the stock is down another 5% or so as of this writing.

The company's fiscal first quarter was essentially more of the same. Total sales down 3.6%, same-store comps down 6.6%, a bigger operating loss, and so forth. The bright spots? Well, the merchandise gross margin was up a bit, so that's not bad. Oh, and inventory was down almost 13% -- but I guess you don't need to stock a lot of inventory when nobody wants to buy what you have.

I can't say that I'm loving what I'm hearing out of Pier 1 management. Yep, once again, we got treated to that old (well, new, actually) stand-by excuse of higher energy prices as a factor in poor sales. Now, maybe it's true (after all, rival Williams Sonoma (NYSE:WSM) didn't have the strongest quarter, either), but I think it hides the real problem -- namely, that Pier 1 has done just a terrible job with merchandising.

Whether gas costs $3 a gallon or $0.03 a gallon, folks aren't going to shop at your store if you're not stocking the stuff they want to buy. Likewise, I'm skeptical about management's suggestions that good sales growth to interior decorators might presage better overall sales. Let's just say that I'll believe it when I see it in the comp-store results.

I'm probably a glutton for punishment, but even with all of the above said, I continue to keep an eye on this one. Maybe it's because I've made too much money from troubled retailers in the past, but I don't see this company as irreparably damaged ... yet. Another year or two of bad merchandising, and maybe this one will find itself in a hole too deep to climb out, but we're not there yet.

In the meantime, just because I'm looking at Pier 1, that doesn't mean you necessarily should. You can go with more stable retailers like Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) or Target (NYSE:TGT), or maybe even another perpetual fixer-upper like clothing retailer Gap (NYSE:GPS). Yeah, they're not comparable to Pier 1, but so what? The idea is to make money, not stick to pedantry.

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