If you've been following retail for some time now, you already know that Talbots (NYSE:TLB) is one that has struggled while others have shined. Today, Talbots reported a mixed bag -- sales were up, but profits suffered as the company had to institute markdowns to push its wares.

Talbots' fourth-quarter earnings fell 27% to $16 million, or $0.29 per diluted share. However, net sales increased 11% to $470.7 million. Same-store sales increased 4.4%, and Talbots' catalog business increased 20%.

While the sales figures may be looking good, the markdowns to push holiday merchandise out the door had a negative effect on margins. And it's obvious the company's expenses ballooned for its earnings to suffer.

However, if you wanted to take a peek at other financial metrics, like Foolish favorite free cash flow for example, you're out of luck. The company didn't attach its balance sheet or free cash flow statement to its press release. Investors will have to wait for the company to file with the SEC before they can take a more in-depth look at the numbers. Also, Talbots said that, like other retailers, it will restate results due to changes in accounting for leases.

Over the past year or so, Talbots has shared the adjective of "struggling" with other womens' retailers like Ann Taylor (NYSE:ANN) and J. Jill (NYSE:JILL). When it comes to providing apparel for an older female demographic, the shining star in the retail universe has definitely been Chico's (NYSE:CHS). (Click here for a recent look at Chico's enviable metrics.)

Talbots gave guidance for the year, forecasting a 13% increase in earnings. Sure, that sounds like a decent year ahead. However, that doesn't give investors a very compelling reason to buy in at these levels. The stock trades at a P/E of 17, and while that's fairly middle-of-the-road in retail, it sounds a little pricey for a retailer that has shown more frump than flash in recent memory.

Take a walk down memory lane with Talbots:

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.