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Collective Brands Walking on Sunshine


Footwear retailer blows past estimates.

The market got pummeled on Thursday, dropping more than 300 points; frankly, almost everything looked lousy. But there was one company that did stand out: Footwear retailer Collective Brands (PSS).

The company, best known for its Payless and Stride Rite stores, reported its second-quarter earnings - and they were very good. In the period ended August 2nd, the Kansas-based chain earned $0.54 per share, excluding items - 42.1% more than they did in the same period last year, per the diluted share price of $0.38. It's also well ahead of the $0.30 to $0.31 per share expected by investors. A solid top line contributed to the earnings jump.

First, I think the company's stock could continue to roll (it was up 11.58% on Thursday), because I think these numbers drew a lot of attention on this otherwise down day. I also think the stock could get a boost if the sell-side ratchets up its forward-looking estimates – and I believe they will.

But even beyond that, there were a couple of points between the lines that caught my eye. For example, excluding items, Collective's gross margin came in at 35%. That's a 60 basis point jump over the comparable period last year. To my mind, the number suggests that the company didn't get killed by markdowns, which is very good news.

Another positive was its SG&A line, which accounted for 28.4% of sales, a 30 basis point jump over 2007's second quarter.

The downside: The company failed to offer a detailed outlook for the future, just as it did in the first quarter. It said, among other things:

"Collective Brands anticipates an operating profit growth rate in the mid-teens over time. This long-term goal is predicated on low-single-digit comparable store sales growth. This year, as previously disclosed, the Company anticipates that comparable store sales growth may be below its long-term goal. Collective Brands intends to mitigate the anticipated near- term sales environment with prudent inventory and expense control."

I mean, what is that? If it wants to really draw eyeballs -- and a following -- I think it's going to have to offer up a little more than that. PR & IR teams take note.

Collective Brands closed at $17.44, up $1.81 or 11.58%.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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