Ann Taylor


blew out second-quarter earnings targets and raised full-year guidance, driven by double-digit same-store sales gains at its Ann Taylor Loft chain.

The New York-based fashion retailer also set a $125 million stock buyback chain.

For the second quarter ended July 29, earnings soared to $43.2 million, or 59 cents a share, from the year-ago $7.1 million, or 10 cents a share. Sales rose 20% from a year ago to $610 million, as same-store sales rose 10.3% for the quarter. Comps rose 6.4% at Ann Taylor and 14.2% at Ann Taylor Loft.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 45-cent profit on sales of $606 million.

The company cited stronger margins and progress in reducing inventory. Ann Taylor said inventory fell 17% from a year-ago by period-end on a per-square-foot basis. Gross margin surged to 54.2% from 47.5% a year ago as the company made more full-price sales.

Ann Taylor said it expects to make $2.05 to $2.10 a share for the year, well above the $1.96 Thomson Financial target.