Select Comfort Has a Lot to Prove on Wednesday

By Rick Munarriz Markets Fool.com

It's time forSelect Comfort (NASDAQ: SCSS)investors to start getting nervous. The company behind the Sleep Number air-chambered mattress reports quarterly results after Wednesday's market close, and it has fallen short of Wall Street's profit targets in back-to-back quarters.

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The silver lining for investors is that the stock didn't get rocked last time out. Shares of Select Comfort moved nicely higher after its weak fourth-quarter numbers. Despite also putting out full-year earnings guidance for the year ahead that was also short of expectations, Select Comfort's forecast includes one-time costs related to the upcoming Sleep Number 360 product line.

Sleep Number 360 is a potentially revolutionary offering. It's being billed as a "smart bed," as the firmness of the mattress adjusts based on body movements during the night. Select Comfort will be talking up the prospects of Sleep Number 360, but for now investors will be hoping that Wednesday's report finds Select Comfort on the positive end of an earnings surprise for the first time in nine months.

Image source: Select Comfort.

Pleasant dreams

It wasn't a good sign to see Raymond James analyst Budd Bugatch downgrade the stock last week. Bugatch lowered his rating on the stock from "outperform" to "market perform" on Tuesday, noting that the risk/reward ratio of the stock at current levels heading into the upcoming earnings report was problematic. It's never a favorable development to see a Wall Street pro talking down a stock just days before an actual quarterly earnings announcement.

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Analysts see reasonable growth in Wednesday's report. They are modeling $370.2 million in net sales for the quarter, 5% ahead of the prior year's first-quarter showing. Wall Street's also holding out for a profit of $0.44 a share, well ahead of the $0.27 it rang up a year earlier -- but, again, Select Comfort has fallen short of bottom-line expectations in its two previous quarters.

Select Comfort's own guidance from early February calls for sales growth in the mid- to high single digits for all of 2017 as it expands its store base by 3% to 4% this year. It increased its store count by a hearty 11% last year. It will be interesting to see if Select Comfort tweaks that full-year outlook on Wednesday afternoon.

Sleep Number 360 can be a game changer for Select Comfort. The "smart bed" is able to pre-heat so owners don't go to bed with cold feet. Sleep Number'sSleepIQtechnology and intelligent biometrics can also make some pretty interesting adjustments, including slightly elevating the side of the bed when someone on that side starts to snore.

Thursday's trading -- and Wednesday's after-hours session -- could get bumpy. Shares of Select Comfort have responded with moves of at least 6% up or down in each of its past four quarters, with double-digit percentage moves following two of those reports. Select Comfort may pride itself on its sleep-producing products, but the stock itself is not sleepy during earnings season.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.