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Updated from May 27

Specialty retailer

Chico's FAS

(CHS) - Get Chico's FAS, Inc. Report

shares barely got off the ground early Friday even though the company late yesterday said first-quarter earnings rose 52% -- beating analysts' consensus estimate by a penny -- as same-store sales climbed more than 20%.

Chico's said after the bell Thursday that profit for the quarter, ended May 1, rose to $36 million, or 40 cents a share, from $23 million, or 27 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Analysts had been expecting 39 cents a share.

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Sales jumped 52% to $257 million, while same-store sales were up 20.1%.

Shares of Chico's were up 6 cents, or 0.1%, at $42.16 in premarket trading. The company's stock has risen 93% in the last year in accordance with the company's huge earnings growth and frequent high double-digit monthly same-store sales results.

Operating margins in the latest quarter improved 20 basis points to 22.3%. "This increase was accomplished primarily through improved gross margins in the Chico's brand due to higher initial merchandise margins and a lower markdown rate, and better than expected gross margins in the White House/Black Market brand," the company said in a statement.

Chico's said its White House/Black Market brand, which it acquired in the third-quarter 2003, slightly de-leveraged its expenses in the quarter; general expenses rose to $95.8 million, from $62.3 million a year ago. The new brand, however, added 2 cents to 2.5 cents a share to the quarter's bottom line.

The company reiterated that it will launch its new Soma intimate apparel brand in the third quarter this year.

Ft. Myers, Fla.-based Chico's, operates 579 stores, which includes 411 Chico's stores, 24 Chico's outlet stores and 132 White House/Black Market stores.