I'll admit it -- I'm a value shopper. I shop for anything electronic on eBay and buy my books used on Amazon.com. But Web shopping has its limits: Purchasing my last two pairs of tennis shoes online wasn't all that easy. The relative ease of retail shoe-shopping is a definite plus for mall-based athletic retailer Finish Line
The company has historically enjoyed impressive performance. There were 104 Finish Line stores in 1992 when the company went public; today there are 625. More importantly, comparable-store sales growth averaged 5% annually over the last 13 years. With growth like that, the stock's P/E of 15 seems cheap. Last week's quarterly report, however, dropped the stock 8%, indicating that investors care more about the company's near-term outlook.
First-quarter same-store sales increased a disappointing 2% over last year's Q1, just about keeping pace with inflation. Revenues were up 13%, mainly due to new store openings, which further increased bottom-line earnings by 23%. The company has $81 million in cash and no debt on the balance sheet, along with only a moderate amount of dilution from stock options, though it hasn't yet adopted FASB's recent ruling to account for them as an expense.
Where same-store sales growth is concerned, Finish Line's competitors aren't faring much better. Foot Locker
While this sales slump may be more of an industry trend, Finish Line has a few other quirks that bear watching. The company plans to open around 80 stores in the next three quarters. This rapid expansion could stretch management and lead to less-favorable locations. If future comparable sales don't at least fall even with competitors', consider it a red flag. Another potential problem is the company's January acquisition of Man Alive. One minor acquisition is no cause for alarm, but if management starts paying up for other businesses, I wouldn't stick around for the ride.
With these worries in mind, the current P/E of 15 still seems cheap. If store performance improves and management is smart with its capital, Finish Line could end up in the market-beating winner's circle.
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Fool contributor Matt Thurmond doesn't own shares in any of the company's mentioned in this article.