99 Cents Only Stores

(NDN)

said first-quarter total sales increased 20.4%, while retail sales jumped 23.4%.

The company also said it expects to meet or exceed analysts' first-quarter earnings forecasts of 19 cents a share. The company earned 18 cents a share in the prior-year quarter.

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"We believe that our recent merchandising efforts, along with information systems initiatives, which have improved our retail in-stock position and product display placement, have helped to increase sales," said President Eric Schiffer.

Total sales were $196.4 million in the quarter ended March 31, compared with sales of $163.1 million in the first quarter of 2002. Analysts were expecting $186.2 million.

Retail sales were $184.7 million, compared with $149.6 million in 2002. The company opened three stores in California during the quarter and expects to open a total of 38 in all of 2003.

The company also said same-store sales increased 4.3% during the quarter.

Shares of the City of Commerce, Calif.-based discount retailer closed at $26.78 Monday.