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Good morning, everyone. This is Amie Preston, Chief Investor Relations Officer, and this is Limited Brands April sales report for the 4-week period ending April 28, 2012. As a matter formality, I need to remind you that any forward-looking statements I may make today are subject to the Safe Harbor statement found on our SEC filings.
Total Limited Brands sales for the 4 weeks ended April 28, 2012, were $659 million versus sales of $683.2 million for the 4 weeks ended April 30, 2011. April 2011 sales included $59.2 million that was attributable to the third-party apparel sourcing business, which was sold in November 2011. Limited Brands April comps were up 6% against a 20% increase last year.
The April merchandise margin rate was up significantly to last year. As a reminder, our total company merchandise margin rate is positively impacted by the sale of the third-party apparel sourcing business. Absent this impact, our merchandise margin rate would have been down to last year in April.
Inventories ended the month up 9% per square foot at cost, as we accelerated receipts to chase into sales at Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works.
First quarter sales were $2.154 billion compared to $2.217 billion last year. First quarter 2011 sales included $214 million attributable to the third-party apparel sourcing business. First quarter comps increased 7% against a 15% increase last year.
We expect to report first quarter earnings per share of $0.38 to $0.40. Versus our previous guidance of $0.35 to $0.40, our first quarter results were negatively impacted by $0.04 to $0.05 per share due to costs related to severance and a higher tax rate.