Discount retailer Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST) has been a surprisingly strong performer over the past year. Its stock price has increased by nearly 25% in that time, thanks to steady earnings growth. While its earnings rose once again in the latest quarter, its second-quarter estimates came in just below Street estimates, prompting a minor sell-off.

For the first quarter, Ross Stores improved earnings by 14.2% to $67 million, or $0.48 per share. Sales climbed 9.2% to $1.4 billion, but comps were flat after gaining 6% in last year's first quarter. Like so many other retailers, including competitor TJX (NYSE:TJX), Ross blamed poor weather for its lackluster comps.

Looking ahead to the second quarter, Ross sees earnings per share of $0.35 to $0.37. That's an increase of 9.4% to 15.6% over last year, but still below the $0.38 analysts want to see. For the year, the company still expects to earn between $1.85 and $1.95 per share, which gives it a forward P/E of about 17 to 18.

Although free cash flow at Ross plunged into negative territory, it has been putting its money to good use. The company repurchased 1.5 million shares of common stock in the quarter, and it's on track to repurchase an additional $149 million. Management claims that its balance sheet and cash flow remain strong, but I think they could certainly be better. While cash and short-term investments increased 9.4%, accounts receivable rose 2.5%, and inventory soared 12.4%. This indicates that Ross is having trouble moving merchandise, which backs up its lack of comps growth.

It wasn't a bad quarter overall for Ross Stores, but I don't see an overabundance of good points in its results, either. And at today's prices, I don't think that simply not being bad is good anymore. I think it's only natural for investors to want more from Ross Stores. If it doesn't want its stock price discounted further, it'll have to find new ways to steadily improve its earnings and comps.

For more on the discount retailers, check out:

Got an opinion on the discount retailers? Bring it to CAPS!

Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy is a dedicated bargain-hunter.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.