(Updated to include analyst commentary and stock-price movement.)
FORT MYERS, Fla. (
saw its quarterly profit more than double, making it one of the few apparel chains to manage hefty gains through actual sales growth rather than cost cuts.
The news sent the company's shares up 7% to $12.75 in afternoon trading Tuesday. Investors appeared to view the results as Chico's first step toward regaining its premium position in the sector after several years of backsliding.
In the quarter, the company earned $14.9 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with $6.7 million, or 4 cents a share, a year earlier.
Excluding charges of $3.1 million, the company said its adjusted per-share earnings came to 10 cents, in-line with analysts' expectations.
Chico's was one of the few retailers -- and so far the only one in the women's space -- to see its top line increase. Sales jumped 4% to $419.9 million from $405.2 million a year ago, while total same-store sales climbed 1.3%.
By division, sales at the company's Chico's/Soma unit rose 0.4%, while sales at its White House Black Market brand spiked 3.7%.
However modest those gains may appear, they're also impressive, as women have held back the most amid the recession.
Momentum isn't expected to slow any time soon. Analyst Jennifer Black, of the firm baring her name, says she's anticipating a big scond-half of the year for Chico's due to improving consumer confidence, compelling merchandise and easier same-store sales comparisons.
But Chico's success doesn't mean all women's retailers will recover any time soon. Last week, rival
as its same-store sales plunged 22.5%.
Nonetheless, shares of these women's retailers reaped the benefits of Chico's good news Tuesday. Shares of AnnTaylor jumped 3.5% to $13.66 in afternoon trading,
New York & Company
shot up 8% to $4.71,
grew 6.5% to $6.41,
climbed 3% to $7.16 and
( DBRN) increased 3% to $16.15.**
-Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York.
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