As far as I can tell, specialty footwear retailer Bakers Footwear
Our recent Fool by Numbers will walk you through the fourth-quarter details released today; the main points were weak sales trends and a big drop in earnings. Net sales for the full year grew 5.1%, but same-store sales decreased 7.1%, as lower margins and overall profitability led to a fiscal 2006 earnings loss.
Management cited weak boot sales for the current difficulties, and was up against tough comps, since same-store sales increased 24.5% in last year's fourth quarter. Fools may be tempted to chalk the challenges up to a tough season, but third-quarter and second-quarter results were equally uninspiring. Come to think of it, the first quarter was also tough, leaving Baker's stock price mostly unchanged from its 2004 initial public offering.
What will it take for sales to improve at the company? For the time being, management looks to be clamping down on inventory to minimize the risk of further markdowns. During the earnings conference call, they admitted their surprise at how quickly sales slowed as the end of the year approached, leading to a "particularly challenging" fourth quarter.
Even with the existing-store sales difficulties, Bakers continues to open new stores. It opened 34 for 2006 and, based on the limited cash flow details in the earnings press release, will spend more in capex than it generated from internal operations for the second straight year. Fortunately, it plans on slowing new store expansion for the coming year.
Going forward, Bakers' "priorities are focused on improving gross margin and profitability." Until it can turn things around, the firm will remain a flat-footed investment alternative in footwear retailing, in the same category as a floundering Finish Line
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Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann has no financial interest in any company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.