According to Retail Metrics data, only Kate Spade, which reported a 14 percent increase in comparable sales, outperformed Ulta. The beauty store's shares jumped 17 percent Friday, topping $191, in response.
"Amidst a challenging retail backdrop and fears of a potential [comparable-sales] slowdown, Ulta delivered an impressive fourth-quarter performance, beating topline and margin expectations, raising 2016 guidance, and accelerating share buybacks," Evercore ISI analyst Omar Saad told investors.
Several factors contributed to Ulta's robust performance. For one, its gross margins got a lift from the company's shift from widespread use of coupons to more targeted offers. For another, the retailer managed to boost traffic — a particular feat given the industrywide dropoff.
And Ulta's net revenues, which increased 21 percent to reach $1.27 billion, were helped by the addition of roughly 100 new stores last year. Ulta plans to open another 100 shops this year, which would put it just shy of 1,000 locations. The company has targeted a longterm network of 1,200 stores, though it's now re-evaluating goals.