These days, you might not expect a lot of success from a company that provides premium denim and other high-priced accoutrements, but True Religion
True Religion's second-quarter net income increased 86% to $9.3 million, or $0.39 per share. Sales surged 78.9% to $64.2 million. And so far this year, the company was able to improve gross margin to 57.3% of sales, from 56.8%. Talk about partying like the consumer slowdown never happened.
In another piece of upbeat news, True Religion increased its earnings guidance for 2008 to a range of $1.61 to $1.65 per share, as compared to its old guidance for $1.52 to $1.56 per share. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.57.
True Religion's tidings are even more impressive given the difficult retail environment. Despite signs that luxury could be languishing at retailers such as Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom
Furthermore, anybody who's following July's comps data today knows there was a major amount of pain at specialty retailers. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch
True Religion has been opening its own retail stores, too -- it now has 30 of them and has decided to step up store openings to bring the total to 39 at the end of this year, four more than previously planned. That's impressive when you consider that many retailers are taking more conservative expansion plans, or even closing stores, because of the poor consumer-spending outlook at hand.
I leaned on the bearish side with True Religion back in the spring, and I still can't get past concerns that the brand may lose its luster or turn out to be a fad. (And frankly, in light of the evidence that consumers of all types are cutting back, how long can True Religion keep this up?)
However, a company that can buck the prevailing negative trends to this extent definitely deserves some attention. I can't call myself a true True Religion convert yet, but this impressive quarter really indicates to me that it's an intriguing stock to watch.
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