Which Shoe Stock Can Run Farthest?

Two of the biggest shoe companies available to investors, Deckers Outdoor and Wolverine Worldwide , have experienced great growth in recent periods, with the former posting a 20% stock gain on the day it released earnings last week. Both companies have made fantastic accretive brand purchases and renovations over the past year, and both should continue to grow at appealing rates. Unfortunately for investors, both also appear to be fully valued stocks. The question for investors going forward regards whether the companies' phenomenal successes can sustain the lofty valuations imparted by an ever-myopic market.

Two pair
Deckers is up roughly 140% over the past 12 months. Wolverine is up just 40%. Deckers is the company behind brands such as Ugg, Teva, Sanuk, and more. Wolverine holds on to names such as Sperry Top-Sider and Saucony.

In their recent releases, Deckers remained the outperformer, with a more than $0.20 per share premium to the Street's earnings estimates. Still, Wolverine was no slouch with a 60% year-over-year gain in its most recent earnings.

In the past 12 months, Deckers has benefited from its Hoka One One acquisition, while Wolverine saw the bulk of its gains come from the newly acquired Collective Brands (Sperry, Saucony, and Keds). Both businesses recently raised their full-year earnings guidance.

You get the picture -- both of these companies are putting their best feet forward. For investors, though, rich valuations put the onus on the companies to keep outperforming.

Good for the distance?
At around 17 times forward earnings each, the market appears to find both stocks' growth worthy of a premium. Deckers holds an EV/EBITDA of just under 10 times, while Wolverine is more than doubled at 22 times. The reason for the latter's tremendous premium on an enterprise value basis is due to the size of the Collective Brands acquisition, where the company took on hundreds upon millions of debt in the $1.24 billion buyout. To management's credit, the company has used its newly energized cash flows to decrease the debt load materially.

Deckers has a negligible long-term debt load at under $30 million. A cleaner balance sheet is typically the more attractive pick (all else constant), but Deckers is also only set to grow its earnings by 10% in the current fiscal year. Paying such a hefty premium today is difficult to stomach, since the stock has little headroom in the case of turbulence.

Ultimately, even with the fantastic brand names and appealing growth set forward, Wolverine may not be able to deliver as much of that additional cash flow to investors as Deckers can. On the other hand, Deckers likely won't grow as fast as Wolverine -- a forecast evident in the company's PEG ratio of 2.09 (Wolverine's is 1).

In one way or another, both businesses are a bit richly valued and investors must be deeply convinced of long-term growth prospects before taking a position in either stock.

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The article Which Shoe Stock Can Run Farthest? originally appeared on Fool.com.

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