Like people, companies have life cycles. While the occasional company is able to fight off age to post continuing robust sales growth, most eventually find that their future growth is less about the top line, and more about efficiency and leverage. I believe that's the case with Claire's Stores
Revenue in this second quarter was up 7%, as overall storewide comps increased 2%. That number contained some interesting moving parts, however. The signature North American business saw comps increase 5% (though on lower transaction volume); the Icing line saw 2% comps growth, and overseas sales were down 2% on a comparable basis. Cost control looked pretty good this time around, and though inventories grew faster than sales, the company's inventory turnover and cash conversion cycle looked relatively better.
Few youth/teen retailers control their sector quite like Claire's. Sure, you can get costume jewelry at Wal-Mart
It's also worth noting that Claire's has a clean balance sheet and a return on capital far greater than that capital's cost. Over the long haul, investors ultimately reward such growth in a company's true economic profits. As always, the key is to buy the stock when it's pessimistically priced. After all, a healthy spread on the cost of capital is a great place to start, but even with these outperformers, price still matters.
For more Foolish thoughts on retail:
- Skull and Bones for the Jewelry Market?
- Aiming at a Moving Target
- Are Investors Missing the Big Picture at Wal-Mart?
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).