Ann Taylor on Target

It guides in line.
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Ann Taylor (ANN) posted a stronger third-quarter profit and guided in line for the year.

The New York-based fashion retailer made $39 million, or 54 cents a share, for the quarter ended Oct. 28, up from the year-ago $30 million, or 42 cents a share. Revenue rose to $566 million from $514 million a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 52-cent profit on sales of $573 million.

Total inventory levels at the end of the third quarter were down 3% on a per square foot basis compared to the same period last year. By division, inventory levels on a per square foot basis were down 13% at Ann Taylor and up 8% at Ann Taylor LOFT.

Gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, increased to 56.6% in the third quarter, compared to 54.2% in the third quarter last year. The increase in gross margin as a percentage of net sales was primarily due to an increase in full-price sales across all divisions.

The company expects to make $2.13 to $2.18 a share for the year, excluding a 6-cent stock option expense charge, in line with the $2.16 Wall Street estimate.