Anyone who has kids, has friends or relatives who have kids, or has simply seen a kid in action knows that they can be tough on clothes. My 2-year-old routinely goes through three or four outfits a day, not including the times when he jumps into the bathtub fully clothed -- shoes and all. Then, by the time the duds have made the round trip to and from the washer and dryer and are once again neatly folded in his dresser, he has outgrown them. Fortunately, there is a Children's Place
This morning, the retailer announced fourth-quarter results that look similar to last quarter's -- which is to say, outstanding. Net sales for the period nearly doubled to $462.1 million from $234.6 million a year ago, driven by a remarkable 17% improvement in same-store sales. Children's Place has a habit lately of posting sizeable gains in that category, ranging from the upper teens to low 20s. The recently acquired Disney stores also deserve much of the credit -- reporting $163 million in revenues from only 10 weeks of operation -- but even excluding that help, sales still would have climbed 27%.
The earnings picture was somewhat convoluted by the Disney purchase, but it was strong by any measure. Fourth-quarter earnings of $0.85, or $24 million, represented a 55% advance from last year. After backing out an extraordinary gain (which reflects the cheap price tag attached to Disney's assets), and a one-time charge associated with the acquisition, earnings surged 73% to $0.95 from $0.55 a year ago.
While Children's Place has been racing around the playground, its pals have had to watch forlornly from the sidelines after being given a time out for bad behavior. Gymboree
Children's Place, though, deserves a higher allowance after closing out such an exceptional year. As recently as November, management was only forecasting 40% earnings growth for the year. That rate was bumped up by half to 60% after the third quarter ended, and then to 80% in January, on the heels of a strong holiday season. As I suspected, though, the actual bottom-line growth proved to be even more robust than expected. Full-year earnings soared 85% to $1.57.
The company has apparently grown accustomed to ratcheting its guidance upward, and it has already done so for fiscal 2005. Earnings are now projected to top out between $2.10 and $2.20 ($0.30 of which comes courtesy of Disney), up from a previous outlook of $2.05. There are plenty of reasons to remain optimistic; every single department in every single geographic region registered double-digit growth last year, capturing 60 basis points (or 23%) more market share in the process. With a 24% gain in comps to begin the new year, this child continues to grow up quickly.
Fool Contributor Nathan Slaughter owns piles of children's clothes, but none of the companies mentioned here.