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Operating margin grows in Q2 - Ross Stores
Aug '11
Ross Stores Inc reported earnings per share for the 13 weeks ended July 30, 2011 of $1.28, up from $1.07 for the 13 weeks ended July 31, 2010. These results represent a 20% increase on top of exceptional 30% and 52% gains in the second quarters of 2010 and 2009, respectively. Net earnings for the 2011 second quarter grew to $148.3 million, up 15% from $129.3 million in the prior year. Sales for the quarter ended July 30, 2011 increased 9% to $2.089 billion, with comparable store sales up 5% on top of a 4% gain in 2010.

For the six months ended July 30, 2011, earnings per share were $2.76, up from $2.24 for the six months ended July 31, 2010. These results represent a 23% increase on top of outstanding earnings per share gains of 45% and 37% for the first half of 2010 and 2009, respectively. Net earnings for the six months ended July 30, 2011 were $321.2 million, up 18% from $271.6 million in the prior year period. Sales for the first six months of 2011 increased 8% to $4.164 billion, with comparable store sales up 4% on top of a robust 7% gain last year.

Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "We are pleased with our better-than-expected performance for both the second quarter and first six months of 2011. Our ability to increase the percentage of fresh name brand bargains our customers see, while also strictly controlling inventories and expenses, has enabled us to capitalize on our favorable position as a value retailer."

Mr. Balmuth continued, "Operating margin in the second quarter grew about 55 basis points to 11.7%, driven primarily by a 50 basis point reduction in selling, general and administrative expenses. Cost of goods sold declined by about 5 basis points, as higher merchandise gross margin and leverage on occupancy expenses were partially offset by an expected increase in packaway-related distribution costs as a percent of sales."

Discussing the Company's financial condition, Mr. Balmuth noted, "Our balance sheet and cash flows remain healthy, and we continue to enhance stockholder returns through our stock repurchase and dividend programs. During the first six months of fiscal 2011, we repurchased 3.1 million shares of common stock for an aggregate purchase price of $230 million. We remain on track to complete by the end of fiscal 2011 approximately $450 million of our current two-year $900 million stock repurchase authorization."

Looking ahead, Mr. Balmuth said, "While we are pleased with our ahead-of-plan performance year to date, we believe it is prudent to be cautious in our outlook for the back half of the year mainly due to the unknown impact on consumers from the recent stock market volatility and increased economic uncertainty. It is also unclear how higher sourcing costs and expected price increases throughout all of retail will impact our business. As a result, although we hope to do better, our sales and earnings targets for the second half of 2011 remain unchanged. For the third quarter ending October 29, 2011, we are projecting same store sales to increase 1% to 2% and earnings per share of $1.00 to $1.04.

For the fourth quarter ending January 28, 2012, we are forecasting a 2% to 3% increase in comparable store sales and earnings per share of $1.53 to $1.59. Earnings per share for the 2011 fiscal year ending January 28, 2012 are now projected to be $5.29 to $5.39. This updated range compares to our previous guidance of $5.16 to $5.31 and represents forecasted growth of 14% to 16% over earnings per share of $4.63 in fiscal 2010."

Ross Stores Inc

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