Sporting goods retailer Hibbett Sports (NASDAQ:HIBB) will report Q4 2007 (yes, 2007, and no, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to these things) financial results on Thursday, March 15.

What analysts say:

  • Buy, sell, or waffle? Of the 18 analysts that cover Hibbett, two-thirds of them rate the stock a buy; the other six say hold.
  • Revenues. Sales are expected to be a big catch this quarter, growing nearly 24% to $149.6 million.
  • Earnings. Profits are forecast to fall in line as well, rising 31% to $0.38 per share.

What management says:
There's a big difference between this year and last, when Hibbett was touting rising revenues but neglecting to talk about anemic same-store sales. Over the ensuing six months, the sporting-goods retailer's stock was pounded by the market, losing 45% of its value -- reflecting the fact that Foolish analysts, at any rate, thought the stock a bit pricey. It's spent a good portion of the year recovering lost yardage, and while shares haven't reached that same pinnacle, they're up by more than 50% off their lows.

That's come about as Hibbett started focusing more on what makes its business work best. It focused new store openings -- of which there were 74 in the fiscal year -- in strip malls, moving away from shopping centers that were typically anchored by Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). With an average size of 5,000 square feet, the strip mall store is the dominant format in markets it serves. It also tried to reduce holding clearance sales, though in the third quarter, markdowns contributed to a 30-basis-point decrease in gross margins. That was more than offset by a 7% increase in same-store sales, or stores opened for at least a year.

What management does:
Hibbett is located primarily in the southeast, and it's been forecasting strong growth for the year. It kept its comps growth within its traditional range of 3% to 5% for the year, but believes that profits should grow to $0.34 to $0.38 per share. Obviously, analysts believe that considering performance so far this year, it should hit the upper range of that forecast. Sales of Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Under Armour (NYSE:UA) products have been providing much of that growth.

Big 5 Sporting Goods (NASDAQ:BGFV) just reported robust sales for its quarter, though its stores are primarily located in the west and were unaffected by fickle winter weather patterns. Hibbett, considering its southern locale, shouldn't have to worry that winter weather will impact sales one way or another, and forecasts should be on track.

























All data courtesy of Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Data reflects trailing-12-month performance for the quarters ended in the named months.

One Fool says:
The contrast with the year-ago period is stark. Even in the face of difficult comparable reporting periods, when the year-ago period had strong sales due to post-hurricane purchases, Hibbett was able to beat them. Couple that with vigorous same-store sales for most of the year, particularly in the back half, and the sporting goods retailer has staged an impressive resurgence. That, however, has put its stock price back in the expensive range, though with its healthy returns on capital and a more secure footing, it is at least more justified.

Related Foolishness:

Hibbett Sports has earned a four-star rating from Motley Fool CAPS, our new investor intelligence community. You can add your voice to the new stock-rating service by joining today. It's free!

Wal-Mart is a recommendation of Motley Fool Inside Value. See what other values are available in the market with a no-cost trial subscription, free for 30 days. Under Armour is a Rule Breakers selection.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Wal-Mart, but does not own any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.