Guess? Inc. (NYSE: GES) delivered what look like superstar earnings for the fourth quarter: 30% revenue increase, 13% North America comp sales increase, 70-basis-point operating margin growth. What gives? Isn't this 2008 -- when the economy looks to be heading into a tailspin and people aren't buying retail anymore?

Guess? not only increased revenues, it also maintained tight cost control in light of the tough economic marketplace. Gross margin actually dropped from 55.3% to 54.6%, while selling, general, and administrative expenses held steady at 26.7%. In addition to actually delivering shareholder value, Guess? has announced a $200 million stock repurchase program and a $0.08 quarterly cash dividend, again prompting me to ask: What gives?

Guess? does have some advantages over the typical retailer. Its international focus has certainly boosted results, with Europe and Asia delivering 66% of the revenue growth and 50% of the earnings growth. But when you look at the results of other upscale, international retailers like Coach (NYSE: COH) and Tiffany (NYSE: TIF), it's clear that Guess? has more on its side than just a good name and an international base. Guess? also sports a well-regarded management team, as discussed late last year by the Fool's Seth Jayson.

All isn't perfect for Guess?. Balance sheet inventories were up more than 33% year over year, so buyers aren't grabbing everything that the company is selling. And while European fourth-quarter revenues were up by 75%, operating margins actually dropped from 19.5% to 18.3%.

Still, it's hard to argue with results like these in today's tough retail environment, and it explains why the company is selling at a premium multiple of nearly 15 times forward earnings even when rival retailers have been beaten down.

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Fool contributor Colleen Paulson doesn't own shares of any of the companies in this article, but remembers fondly when Guess? jeans were the newest trend. The Fool's disclosure policy is always a trendsetter.