Coach

(COH)

posted a 62% jump in first-quarter earnings, beating estimates and raising its guidance for 2005.

The handbag maker said Tuesday it earned $68 million, or 35 cents a share, for the quarter ended Oct. 2, up from $42 million, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts on Wall Street were expecting earnings of 33 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

Coach's performance, which continues an impressive streak of success among high-end retailers, benefited from a 33% gain in net sales combined with a wider profit margin. Its net sales totaled $344 million, up from last year's $258 million, and its gross margin grew to 75.0% from 72.7%, driven by channel mix, product mix and sourcing cost initiatives.

The company said a variety of factors, "in combination with the momentum that has continued into October throughout our major businesses, reinforce our confidence that we will have another very strong holiday season."

For the second quarter, Coach now estimates sales of at least $505 million, a jump of 23% from a year ago, with earnings of at least 64 cents a share, up around 28%. For 2005, it foresees sales of more than $1.6 billion, an increase of at least 21% from a year earlier, and earnings to $1.78 a share, up about 31%. Its previous guidance called for earnings of at least $1.71 a share in 2005 on sales of more than $1.6 billion.

During the first quarter, the company opened five retail stores and five factory stores, bringing the total to 179 retail stores and 81 factory stores. Also, one retail store was relocated and expanded. In Japan, Coach opened four and expanded six retail locations, including establishing a flagship store in the city of Sapporo.

It reiterated plans to add at least six more retail stores in the U.S. before the holidays, bringing the year-to-date total to 11 new retail stores, and it will have five expansions. At the same time in Japan, Coach will open four new retail locations, including flagships in the cities of Osaka and Sendai.

Coach's product lines include the updated Hamptons Leather and new Vintage Signature collection. Its stock was recently up $1.28, or 3.1%, to $43 in premarket trading.