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Finish Line Bettering Foot Locker in Sales Race

The last year wasn't the friendliest for shoe retailers, just as it hurt much of the other apparel and accessories outlets in the industry. But Finish Line (FINL), one of the larger athletic-shoe retailers on the landscape, saw a sales revival in its most recent quarter.

Sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.7 percent during the quarter, and the company posted a net income of $6.5 million, up from a loss of the same amount during the same year-ago period. While those aren't outstanding numbers, they're certainly much better than prior periods this year. For example, second-quarter same-store sales plunged 9.9 percent.

By contrast, larger competitor Foot Locker's (FL) third quarter didn't turn out so well. That chain, with 3,600 stores compared to Finish Line's 681 units, reported a net loss of $6 million and a comparable-store sales dove 8.2 percent.

What's helping Finish Line perform well right now is its sales strength of running shows, where executives said the chain is a leader in the category, executives said during its third-quarter conference call. Sales for both men's and women's shoes in this category increased by mid-teen percentage points. Kid's footwear also performed well, up 3.6 percent.

And it seems like momentum continues through December. Same-store sales in the current month are up by about five percent, said Glenn Lyon, chief executive officer.

Wall Street is apparently betting that Finish Line's luck will continue. One analyst placed an "outperform" rating on its stock, while five others gave it a "buy" rating. Additionally, the stock's hovering around it's 52-week high.

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