You would be hard-pressed to get a clear path, let alone a parking space, at any of the major retailers on Friday. What possesses consumers to wake up at the crack of dawn to fetch crazy bargains through a sea of people? My guess is that it's a combination of holidayitis and the need to work off some of that heavy Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing.

One retailer that should enjoy Thanksgiving a lot more is The Sports Authority (NYSE:TSA), which recently reported a narrower third-quarter loss than expected. Doug Morton, the CEO, also said that the company is "well positioned from a merchandise perspective" going into the holiday selling season.

The Sports Authority lost $0.09 per share in the third quarter, a number that was miles ahead of its $0.31 per-share loss last year. Without the impact of merger integration costs, the company earned $0.03 per share, which was 50% over the $0.02 analysts' consensus estimate.

Total sales for the third quarter were down 1.4% from last year, and same-store sales dropped 1.9%, as the company blamed the four Southeast hurricanes that "affected a significant number of stores during the quarter." The Sports Authority forecasts flat same-store sales for the fourth quarter and earnings of $1.08 per share (on target with previous estimates).

Although sales dropped in the quarter, the company managed to trim some of the fat in its operations. It improved gross profit by 30 basis points and operating profits by 110 basis points, proving that a quality retailer always has a backup plan (when the sales environment shifts). The company expects to open 22 stores for the year and close up to 12 underperforming stores, giving it a total of 394 stores.

The Sports Authority is part of an industry crowded with the likes of Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS), Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL), and Foot Locker (NYSE:FL), as well as retailers Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT), which have been stocking more and more sporting goods.

The company's shares, which are trading at 11.8 times the fiscal 2005 earnings estimate of $2.34 per share, look very attractive relative to the expected earnings growth rate of 23% next year. Throw in a better-than-expected holiday sales performance, and The Sports Authority might be in even better shape.

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Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and has no stake in any company mentioned above.