For Fools looking to add luxury retailing exposure to their portfolios, the options are limited. Saks (NYSE:SKS) is working through some company-specific issues, Barney's is buried among the many assets of Jones Apparel (NYSE:JNY), and Jones just called off trying to sell itself because of a lack of interest, while super-luxurious Neiman-Marcus was snapped up by private-equity shops a while back. That pretty much leaves Seattle-based Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN), which has been doing quite well, as last week's second-quarter results bear out.

Nordstrom reported a 7.8% increase in total quarterly sales and continued a solid trend of positive store comps, as same-store sales grew by an impressive 5.7%. Women's apparel struggled, as it did in the first quarter. Given that this area accounts for the largest proportion of overall sales -- about 35% -- there is room for improvement to keep total sales chugging along. The company also reported that operating earnings grew by almost 18%, though net earnings advanced 26% as management repurchased shares and recorded a gain related to a settlement with Visa and MasterCard.

In offering guidance for the full year, Nordstrom said it expects diluted earnings of $2.31-$2.39, for a forward P/E of about 15. That's not bad, considering the company has grown net income by more than 40% on average annually over the past five years. Sales have grown only 6.5% each year over that time frame, but management has been able to stay on top of key fashion trends and focus on IT enhancements to make sure popular products reach the store shelves and that the merchandise mix is kept at optimal levels.

As a result, Nordstrom is currently among the elite department-store chains, posting solid numbers along with more moderately priced product peddlers such as Kohl's (NYSE:KSS) and J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP). The namesake Nordstrom chain, which accounted for 99 stores as of quarter's end, differentiates itself by focusing on more upscale merchandise and high levels of customer service, while Nordstrom Rack, with 49 stores, targets the cost-conscious consumer. And it does so pretty well -- the Rack posted 11.6% comp growth for the quarter. A "Personal Book" program to record the clients' personal preferences is said to be helping sales trends.

At the current valuation, Nordstrom trades in line with its department-store peers and also generates solid free cash flow as a result of some of the highest profit margins in the industry. As I also mentioned, it is also one of the more upscale chains and one of the only pure-play ways to invest in the space.

As such, other department-store chains, such as Federated (NYSE:FD), which also owns upscale Bloomingdale's, and Dillard's (NYSE:DDS), have identified that going more upscale can pay, so there can be no assurances that Nordstrom will continue to report high levels of profitability over the longer term. But the retailing industry will always be subject to the whims of a fickle consumer, leaving the landscape open for a savvy trend-spotter. Nordstrom is currently the leader in appealing to those fashionistas willing to pay top dollar to look good, a position that has paid off handsomely for shareholders over the past few years.

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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.