- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

PLEASANTON, CALIF. (AP) - Ross Stores Inc. said Thursday that its profit edged up 3 percent in the fourth quarter, meeting Wall Street’s expectations, as the discount clothing retailer improved its margins.

For the quarter ended Jan. 31, earnings rose to $97.4 million, or 76 cents per share, from $94.5 million, or 70 cents per share, a year ago.

Sales grew 5 percent to $1.73 billion from $1.65 billion a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings of 76 cents per share on revenue of $1.73 billion.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open for at least one year, dipped 1 percent during the period.

Michael Balmuth, who is vice chairman, president and chief executive of Ross Stores, said the company was able to take advantage of opportunities to buy sharply discounted products from retailers that were slashing their inventories or liquidating.

“More importantly, we accomplished this while also operating the business with leaner in-store inventories, which drove faster turns and reduced markdowns, resulting in higher merchandise gross margin,” he said.

For the full fiscal year, earnings jumped 17 percent to $305.4 million, or $2.33 per share, from $261.1 million, or $1.90 per share, in the prior year. Annual sales increased 9 percent to $6.49 billion from $5.98 billion a year ago. Same-store sales grew 2 percent during the year.

Ross Stores rose 12 cents to $34.22 in morning trading.

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