Steiner Leisure (Nasdaq: STNR) is back to form.

Shares soared 12% yesterday after the spa operator blew past Wall Street's first-quarter profit expectations. Revenue inched 11% higher to $136.7 million. Earnings clocked in at $0.61 a share, less than the $0.62 a share it earned a year earlier, but well ahead of the $0.57 a share that concerned analysts were targeting.

So why do I say Steiner is back to form? Well, three months ago, I was bellyaching about missing the old Steiner. The company was coming off its third consecutive quarter of simply meeting (or missing) Wall Street's guesstimates. That would be acceptable to most investors, but I was spoiled by a Steiner that had topped estimates in 19 of the previous 20 periods.

Steiner is the first stock that I recommended to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers four years ago, but my excitement over Steiner getting back on track is more rational than sentimental.

I just didn't think it would happen in an environment where cruise-ship operators like Carnival (NYSE: CCL), Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL), NCL, and Disney (NYSE: DIS) -- all longtime Steiner customers who turn to the company to manage their floating spas -- are tacking fuel surcharges onto their passenger bills.

If cruisers are being nickel-and-dimed, would they still spring for the spa treatments? You bet. The average Steiner-run spa -- whether it's on one of its 127 cruise ships or 51 landlubber resorts -- is raking in more money now than it was a year ago.

Yes, Steiner's ship fleet count has gone from 130 to 127 boats -- a rare dip for Steiner -- but the new ships coming online are even bigger than the ones going out.

Perhaps the most impressive line item in Steiner's report is that product sales -- consisting mostly of its Elemis line of spa and beauty products -- climbed 30% higher during the period. Yes, this is just a 13% slice of the company's revenue-mix pie, but that's healthier beauty-product growth than you're seeing out of companies like Helen of Troy (Nasdaq: HELE), Regis (NYSE: RGS), or Ulta Salon (Nasdaq: ULTA).

This sets the stage for several things to watch for in the coming quarter.

  • Is the market-topping trend continuing?
  • Is the ship count increasing or decreasing?
  • Are product sales growing into a needle-mover?

Steiner is interesting again. Hop on board and kick the massage tables.

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