Investing in clothing retailers is a tricky business. Beyond basic investment knowledge, it requires a knack for understanding fashion trends. For instance, whereas Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection The Gap
So if fashion trends are investment indicators, we might deduce that where fickle fashion goes, so too goes the stock.
For the first quarter, comparable same-store sales were in a dead sprint, rising by 10.8%. Net sales set a new record at $327.3 million -- 27.4% higher from the same period a year ago. Revenues from its Chico's stores grew by 22.5%, while the company's White House and Black Market stores knocked it out of the ballpark with growth of 64% compared with the same period a year ago.
Having shopped at its White House and Black Market stores -- not for myself, obviously (boy, that's a scary thought) -- I am not at all surprised by the tremendous results these lines are experiencing. The company has nailed down the right balance of casual, classy, and sexy wear that continues to bring in the shoppers.
One area of improvement, as far as revenues go, is from catalog and Internet sales. This category grew by 13.1% from a year ago, but given the robust pace of online shopping, you have to believe that it's capable of pushing this figure into the mid-20s.
Any improvement in that area would only strengthen the bottom line, which increased 32.3% to $47.2 million during the first quarter. Chico's healthy profit margins allowed it to take full advantage of its sales. The company's operating margins improved slightly to 22.4%, compared with last year's level of 22.3%.
With these kinds of results, it's likely to remain full-speed ahead for Chico's. However, cautious investors may be wondering whether the rocket rise of their shares are reminiscent of Gap's ascent in 1999, when it too rose to dizzying heights?
So long as Chico's remains fashion-relevant -- which is no easy task -- investors have little to worry about. If there's a concern at all, it is the stock's valuation. Trading at a current-year price-to-earnings ratio of around 30, this enterprise is dependent upon robust growth. Any slip in sales will not be pretty for its stock.
That's the bad news -- if you want to call it that. But if I were a current shareholder (and unfortunately, I'm not), I would be sitting tight with my shares. This party is getting interesting.
While Fool analyst Seth Jayson continues to hope for a freak accident from an elastic waistband, I suspect that Chico's shareholders would be happy enough with more of the same.
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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned.