Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) just reported earnings, updating investors on its holiday-season quarter. From the reaction of the stock, it looks like Wall Street can't make heads or tails of the report. Shares spiked by more than 4% after the news, but have since fallen back to around even.
Here are a few of the key investor takeaways from Crocs' fourth quarter.
Europe and advertising
Sales rose by a hefty 10 %, as the shoemaker logged a big jump in its European retail sales last quarter. Globally, Crocs' sales were powered by the addition of 107 retail stores, a 25% boost over last year's tally. That bigger footprint helps explain how total revenue could climb by double digits in the quarter, while comparable-store sales hit their typical fourth-quarter slump, and fell by 3.5 %.
Crocs doesn't plan to add locations at as quick a pace in 2013. Management expects to open between 70 and 95 new stores over the year.
Instead of spending on store expansions, Crocs plans a big investment in marketing this year. The company will plunk down an extra 33 % on advertising spending in 2013, as it tries to support the rollout of its new spring and summer styles. Last year, the company spent $40 million on advertising, about the same as the year before.
Asia growth is huge
Despite a challenging environment in Japan, growth in Crocs' Asia region continued to outpace Europe and the Americas. For the full year, Asia revenue was up by 20 % -- or about twice the growth rate of the Americas -- while Europe ended flat. If that pace keeps up, Asia could pass the Americas, and become Crocs' single biggest market by the end of this year.
As for the outlook, Crocs projected a strong 3% to 4 % comparable-store sales gain in 2013. And, while the company has worked hard to diversify its styles to lessen the huge seasonal swings in its business, most of that sales growth is expected to happen in the first half of the year.
Crocs navigated its perilous fourth quarter well last year, and management is bullish on the company's growth potential in 2013. In my view, this earnings report doesn't change the fact that Crocs is a risky bet. But investors who disagree can pick up shares for less than 10 times earnings.