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Solid sales gains on top of very tough comparisons, Ross Stores
23
May '11
Ross Stores Inc reported earnings per share for the 13 weeks ended April 30, 2011 of $1.48, up from $1.16 for the 13 weeks ended May 1, 2010. These results represent a robust 28% increase on top of an exceptional 61% gain for the same period last year. Net earnings for the 2011 first quarter grew to $173.0 million, up 22% from $142.3 million in the prior year. Sales for the quarter ended April 30, 2011 increased 7% to $2.075 billion, with comparable store sales up 3% on top of an outstanding 10% gain in 2010.

Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, commented, "We are pleased to report that both sales and earnings in the first quarter were better than expected, with solid gains on top of very tough comparisons in the prior year. These results were mainly driven by our ongoing ability to deliver a wide array of compelling name-brand bargains to today's value-focused customers, while operating our business on leaner in-store inventories."

Mr. Balmuth continued, "Operating margin for the quarter grew about 160 basis points to a record 13.7%. The largest driver of this increase was a 130 basis point improvement in gross margin, which benefited mainly from higher merchandise gross margin and lower occupancy and distribution expenses as a percent of sales. Selling, general and administrative costs as a percent of sales declined by about 30 basis points, primarily due to decreases in store operating costs and general and administrative expenses 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 three months of fiscal 2011, we repurchased 1.6 million shares of common stock for an aggregate purchase price of $112 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, "For the second quarter ending July 30, 2011, we are currently forecasting same store sales to increase 2% to 3% and earnings per share of $1.15 to $1.20, up from last year's $1.07. This represents 7% to 12% projected growth on top of 30% and 52% increases for the second quarters of 2010 and 2009, respectively. In addition, we are raising our earnings per share guidance for the 2011 fiscal year ending January 28, 2012 to $5.16 to $5.31, above our initial guidance of $4.90 to $5.10. This updated range represents projected growth of 11% to 15% over earnings per share of $4.63 in fiscal 2010."

Ross Stores Inc

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