Jones Apparel Group (NYSE:JNY) just keeps on buying -- but investors haven't been doing the same.

Yesterday, shares of Jones fell approximately 3% following the announcement that the company agreed to buy well-known high-end retailer Barney's New York and its 21 stores, $444 million in 12-month (ended July 31) sales, and $33 million in operating income (for the same period). Jones will shell out approximately $400 million in cash and repurchased debt for the privilege.

At first blush, Barney's isn't an obvious bargain. A profitable company with a strong market niche and a presence in top markets, Jones agreed to pay a substantially higher multiple for Barney's (based on trailing operating income) than its own shares currently command. But that's not the way Jones has operated of late. Instead, it's been willing to pay for performing assets to build out its portfolio, as the recent deals for Maxwell Shoe and Kasper indicate.

Investors in Jones are betting that the company will be well-positioned for a prolonged economic recovery -- even more so now given Barney's upper-crust clientele. (Barney's revenues represent about a tenth of Jones' top-line haul last year.) It's a sensible bet. Trouble is, last month the company pulled back its second-half financial guidance and moderated 2005 expectations, citing disappointing retail sales and a tough economic environment. Back then, however, CEO Peter Boneparth insisted that the company would stick to its guns and the business plan it's drawn up. Yesterday's news indicates that he's serious.

If you agree, watch this space. The shares' nearly five-month steady drop hasn't presented investors with a clear sale opportunity yet, but those who catch it if it does may be rewarded with a financially strong company that's ready to generate substantial long-term gains.

Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own any of the companies in this article.