(KSS) - Get Report

, the discount retailer with an upscale streak that has been an investor favorite for its robust growth, reported strong quarterly earnings Tuesday despite a jittery economy that has dented earnings for much of the retail sector.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company said it earned 22 cents a share in the first quarter ended May 5, up 38% from the 16 cents a share the company earned in the same quarter last year. According to

Thomson Financial/First Call

, analysts expected the company would earn 21 cents a share.

Meanwhile, net sales rose 21% to $1.49 billion, matching the consensus estimate. On a same-store basis, which measures activity in shops open at least a year and is closely watched by analysts, sales rose 5.3%, down from a 6.9% gain in the year-ago period but impressive compared with how most other retailers have performed this year.

In April, for example, the company reported same-store sales gains of 12.7%, well above expectations and confirming what many analysts and investors had expected -- that Kohl's has been largely unaffected by the economic slowdown. Gross profit margins in the quarter improved, rising to 35% of sales from 34.7% last year.

"No earnings recession here, in our view,"

Robertson Stephens

analyst Bill Dreher wrote in a recent report. (Dreher rates the company a buy, and his firm hasn't done underwriting for Kohl's).

Unlike most retailers that have reported earnings recently, the company didn't mention the faltering economy in its earnings announcement.

Shares gained 17 cents in trading Tuesday to close at $67.16, not far from their 52-week high of $72.24 reached in February.