May Department Stores

(MAY)

reported a slight rise in first-quarter earnings Tuesday, helped by an increase in sales. But operating results fell short of the Wall Street consensus.

The company earned $76 million, or 24 cents a share, compared with $72 million, or 23 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. The latest results included store divestiture costs of $7 million. In July 2003, the company said it would divest 34 underperforming department stores.

Excluding divestiture-related costs, the company earned $81 million, or 26 cents a share, in the first quarter. Analysts were calling for 27 cents a share.

Total sales in the quarter were $2.96 billion, up from the prior-year quarter's $2.87 billion. The company said same-store sales increased 1.7%. The quarter's sales were strong in ladies' accessories, footwear and apparel. Handbags and small leather goods were also big sellers.

Children's, dresses and home furnishings lagged overall store performance, however, May said.

The operator of Filene's, Lord & Taylor and David's Bridal, among other national chains, has over 1,000 stores and is based in St. Louis.

Shares of May closed at $28.78 Monday on the

New York Stock Exchange

.

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