If it's not polite to stare at a company in distress, is it OK to gawk when it's doing well? Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) had a healthy quarter toiling away at the cash register as the upscale department store chain produced significantly higher earnings on widening margins. Revising its earnings outlook higher and confident enough to hike its quarterly dividend, it produced what one might consider a shopper's paradise.

And just to help keep the jubilant tone, the company declared a sale on its share price with the stock knocked down last night after the company's earnings report.

Perplexed? You shouldn't be. While the company was able to earn $0.75 a share during its second quarter and raise its fiscal year projections to a range between $2.46 and $2.50 a stub, those sums may have been higher than the company's public guidance, but analysts had already lapped those amounts in making more ambitious estimates.

So who are you to believe? The company says that it is performing better than expected, while Wall Street thinks otherwise. Well, you have to yield to the latter in the near term. If the market's saying that Nordstrom's not doing well enough, who are we to argue the very whims and expectations that priced the stock in the first place? Yet how can you not like Nordstrom, given a wider time frame?

Dig into the report, and the layers feel right. Gross margins are up. That means that the company has been able to mark up its merchandise more aggressively. Is that scaring away customers? No, because comps are up. Same-store sales are up a smart 9.5% so far this year. That's good, but is the company being run efficiently enough to take advantage of all this favorable momentum? Absolutely. Operating margins are higher as well. It's why earnings ultimately surged by 62% while sales climbed by a more modest 9.4% during the July quarter.

If you noticed that Nordstrom's comps and overall sales aren't all that different, it's because the company has been expanding gradually. It didn't open a new unit this past quarter, and its next namesake store won't be ready until November. However, after watching upstart specialty retailers such as Hot Topic (NASDAQ:HOTT) and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) rain on their earnings parade by taking a frenetic approach to growing their store counts instead of tackling their sluggish comps, isn't it refreshing to see a retailer taking it slow while it's doing it right at the store level?

Trading at 16 times this year's earnings, Nordstrom's slow top-line growth may deem that to be a fair multiple. The bottom-line improvement has been spectacular this year, but obviously, that's not a feasible growth rate for a company like Nordstrom. Yet an improving economy may very well find the upper-middle class that Nordstrom devours opening their pocketbooks even wider.

That would definitely be the product of good manners -- whether one were to mind their P's and Q's, or their J's and W's.

Have you helped Nordstrom's bottom line this year, or do you prefer to go shopping somewhere else? Can you find good values at upscale department stores? How do you seek out the best threads at the best prices? All this and more in the What to Wear? discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz lives a five-minute drive away from where the next Nordstrom store is opening up in Miami's Dadeland Mall. That doesn't mean that you can bum a ride. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.