After a period of uneven performance, specialty department store operator Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) appears to have returned to steady new-store expansion andsame-store sales growth. Second-quarter results released last Friday confirmed the trend. So how long can we count on the revitalized performance?

For the quarter, diluted earnings grew an impressive 27.8%, while sales jumped 14%, and same-store comps grew 5.5%. Results for the six-month period were slightly better on all counts. Management stated that it exceeded its own expectations for the quarter and also raised full-year guidance to a range of $3.04-$3.13, more than $0.10 higher than before. It also repurchased about $1 billion in stock, which obviously helped improve earnings numbers. Not bad, and the market seemed to agree, sending the shares to a new 52-week high.

One thing that stood out to me was that operating cash flow exceeded net income by six times for the six-month period ended July. This was mostly because of a one-time event where Kohl's sold its credit card receivables. Nonetheless, excluding the receivable sale, operating cash flow exceeded reported net income, which the company ploughed back into expanding its store base.

Kohl's now operates 749 stores and continues to grow at a rapid clip; for fiscal 2006 it's targeting 85 new stores. That's a far cry from the 79 stores that existed back in 1992, but analysts believe the company can continue to grow unabated for some time yet. In the current retailing environment, analysts believe that the company is benefiting from the consolidation of the department store industry, including the recent marriages of May Department Stores and Federated (NYSE:FD), and Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD) and K-Mart. In fact, quite a few names in the department store space are doing well right now, as witnessed by strong results at JC Penney (NYSE:JCP), and Dillard's (NYSE:DDS).

Based on full-year projections, shares of Kohl's are trading at about 20 times earnings. That's not overly high for a company with continued robust growth expectations, but it leaves little room for same-store sales hiccups that inevitably occur at retailing companies. As I detailed recently, a good time to buy these stocks is when comparable store trends are struggling. As a case in point, Kohl's had posted uneven results going as far back as 2004. Over that time frame, a timely purchase would have gotten you into the name closer to $40 per share, or about 33% below current levels.

I'm not saying the good times won't continue to roll for Kohl's, but Fools should investigate further and decide how confident they are that comps will continue to come in at favorable levels. In any case, Kohl's is probably a good bet for long-term investors.

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy. Feel free to email him with feedback or to further discuss any companies mentioned.