As expected, the seller of stylish maternity clothing posted results that came in much lower than those earned just a year ago. Although the company and investors saw this coming well in advance, sellers still pushed the stock nearly 3% lower, and it's now getting close to a new 52-week low. Does that mean Mothers Work is now a great value, or the dreaded value trap?
For the fiscal third quarter, Mothers Work earned $0.90 per share, excluding debt repurchase charges. Net sales dropped 6.5% to $153.2 million in the quarter, as the company's gains from licensing and marketing agreements couldn't overcome its 8.2% decrease in comparable-store sales.
Management continues to do its best to keep inventories in check without slashing prices. Although prices have been reduced throughout the store, reductions haven't yet been significant, while inventories are a slight 3.9% higher. Unfortunately, unless its situation improves quickly, it will either be forced to offer bargains or cope with rising inventories.
Apparently, management doesn't expect to recover from its difficult environment in the near future. Fiscal 2007 estimates were lowered to $1.49 to $1.74 per share from earlier expectations of $2.32 to $2.85 per share (excluding debt repurchase charges in each case). Based on its updated full-year guidance, Mothers Work now has a forward P/E range between 14.3 and 16.7. Of course, before it drastically reduced its guidance, its forward P/E was in a much lower range of 8.7 to 10.7.
Management seems ready to put 2007 in its past and is already looking ahead to 2008. And one could hardly blame the company for doing so. It expects to get things turned around in its next fiscal year, predicting earnings per share of $1.89 to $2.56. It's very early, but it would appear likely that it could manage to beat current analysts' estimates of $1.95 per share.
Unfortunately, investors don't have the benefit of jumping ahead to the end of next year when there are still two months left in the company's current year. But if Mothers Work doesn't figure out how to lure shoppers back to its stores quickly, those investors may wish they could go back in time, not forward.
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Fool contributor Mike Cianciolo welcomes feedback and doesn't own any of the companies in this article.