Image source: The Motley Fool.

Shares of Skechers (NYSE:SKX) hit a 52-week low last month, and in a few days, we'll find out if the markdown has been justified. The country's second-largest footwear brand will post quarterly results on Thursday.

This may seem like an ideal time for contrarian opportunists. The stock has shed more than half of its value over the past year, and it's trading more than 24% lower year to date. Bulls will argue that the sell-off over the past year is overdone, but it's undeniable that Skechers needs to pick up the pace if it wants to win back its former status as a market darling.

Skechers is coming off its softest revenue growth in nearly four years. Top-line growth slowed to a 9.6% rate in its poorly received second-quarter showing. It had been chugging along at a roughly 27% clip through the three previous quarters, and even that was below earlier spurts when it peaked at 40% year-over-year growth during last year's first quarter. 

The big drag on its performance last time out was a 5.4% decline in its domestic wholesale business. That was bailed out by a 15.4% uptick in its company-owned retail stores and a heartier 34.6% surge in its international subsidiary and joint venture business, but the overall performance didn't impress the market. The stock took a brutal 22% the day after posting post-close financial results, and that will be weighing on investors when we hear what Skechers has to say on Thursday after the market close.

Pick up the pace

Image source: Skechers.

Skechers had a scapegoat last time around. It had credited hearty wholesale growth resulting from the shift in the Easter holiday for its strong first-quarter showing. The seasonal holiday's shift from April last year to March in 2016 helped inflate sales during the first quarter at the expense the second quarter.

It won't have an excuse if it falls short this time around. Analysts are forecasting $954.8 million in revenue for the third quarter, up 11.5% since the prior year and at the low end of Skechers' own guidance calling for $950 million to $975 million in net sales. That would still be modest acceleration from the sub-10% rate it posted during its problematic second quarter, but it's still well short of previous reports. 

The bottom line could also prove challenging. The shift away from low-margin wholesale sales has helped beef up its gross margin, but there have been hiccups as we work our way down the income statement. A fire in its Malaysian warehouse, unfavorable currency swings, and additional VAT taxes in Brazil ate into profitability last time out.

Wall Street pros are holding out for earnings of $0.47 a share in Thursday afternoon's report, up reasonably from the $0.43 a share it served up a year earlier. That's going to be an important target to hit, since Skechers has fallen short of analyst profit estimates in three of the past four quarters.

The stock has fallen so hard over the past year -- and even since its 22% plunge the day after its previous report -- that the market could be more forgiving than it was in late July. However, the forgiveness process doesn't start until Skechers proves that growth is accelerating and that it remembers how to land ahead of market expectations.

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.