Just like the "company men" who buy its suits -- presumably dark blue, single-breasted, two-button affairs suitable for wearing at the staid corporate offices of IBM (NYSE:IBM) or Sears (NYSE:S) -- The Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW) showed up on the dot yesterday and punched in with reliably strong profits.

Sales for the company's third quarter rose 11% over the year-ago period; earnings per diluted share increased 48%. Impressive as these results are, however, they represent a slight slowdown from the company's results over the earlier portion of the year, pulling its total year-to-date sales increase back to 12.2% and its increase in diluted EPS to "just" 58%.

As we saw three months ago, the company owes its strong rise in profitability in comparison with net sales to strengthening margins. In Q3, The Men's Wearhouse boosted its operating margins by 123 basis points, to 5.91%. While that compares unfavorably with the company's year-to-date results -- a 169-basis-points increase to a 7.02% operating margin -- it's still a big improvement over last year and the main driver behind the company's stellar earnings.

But like the apocryphal company man who holds down a 9-to-5 job and looks the ideal employee in every outward respect, but whose domestic life is a shambles, The Men's Wearhouse also has its dark side. To find it, look to the company's cash flow statement, wherein the tale is told of a company that ran a net cash outflow of $8 million over the first nine months of 2003 -- a number that swelled to $21.8 million in negative cash flow in the first nine months of 2004.

Increasing capital expenditures appear to bear most of the blame here, as the company continued to expand in 2004, opening a net of 13 new stores over the past year, perhaps in a bid to keep up with rival Jos. A. Bank's (NASDAQ:JOSB) own growth spurt. So it's worth pointing out here that, like The Men's Wearhouse, Jos. A. Bank, too, has negative free cash flow.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.