Fourth-quarter profit at bebe increased 13% to $22.1 million, or $0.24 per share, beating analysts' expectations by $0.03 per share. Sales increased 11.2%, with same-store sales up 3.5% (and that's against a tough comparison to the 34.2% increase in the prior-year quarter).
Granted, some expenses ticked up for bebe. Gross margin decreased just a tad, to 50.5% from 51% year over year, which the company attributed to higher occupancy expense. (Granted, double-digit gross margins at that level are still very impressive, and bebe's are quite high compared to many of its retail peers.) SG&A increased one percentage point, due to stock-based compensation and a legal settlement.
On the other hand, when Tom Gardner recommended bebe to Motley Fool Stock Advisor subscribers, one of the key elements of his investment thesis was the company's history of competent management and a strong balance sheet. Indeed, cash and cash equivalents jumped 22% to $327.7 million over the course of the last year. (Unfortunately, bebe didn't include a cash flow statement in its press release, so we'll have to wait for it to file its 10-Q with the SEC to assess its year-end free cash flow.)
Lots of investors who follow retail know that it hasn't exactly been easy for many retailers this summer -- look at Gap
On the other hand, sexy clothes like bebe's apparently sell. And it seems that the alluring apparel that bebe and rivals like Guess?
Furthermore, bebe may have shown a lot of spunk this summer, but last quarter, bebe shares went on sale when the company said it would report fourth-quarter earnings of $0.18 to $0.22 per share -- levels that it has obviously exceeded.
Of course, bebe shares' 19% jump today might give some investors pause. (Stock Advisor subscribers, on the other hand, may be celebrating; bebe shares have appreciated 48% since Tom recommended them in April.) Just for starters, bebe's P/E ratio of 28 looks awfully high compared to its growth rate. It looks high compared to some retail peers, too -- Abercrombie & Fitch
For more on bebe, see the following Foolish content:
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.