AnnTaylor

(ANN)

keeps smiling.

The women's apparel chain met earnings guidance for the first quarter and boosted its outlook for the remainder of the year, as it continues to show that it learned its lesson from last year, when sales tanked on the heels of fashion missteps.

AnnTaylor, which operates the Ann Taylor and Loft chains, said net income in the first quarter was $20.9 million, or 67 cents a share, up from $10.9 million, or 37 cents a share, last year. The earnings were not a surprise, as AnnTaylor, which has a history of continually massaging financial guidance, just last week raised its first-quarter target.

Like many other retailers lately, the company reported that sales grew much less than earnings, on the heels of better inventory management and fewer markdowns. Sales in the quarter were $345.4 million, up from $307.1 million last year. Comparable-store sales, which measure activity in shops open at least a year, were up just 0.1%.

"Strong full-price selling continued at both of our retail concepts, resulting in gross margin rates that exceeded our expectations," said J. Patrick Spainhour, the chairman, in a statement.

Meanwhile, the company also raised guidance for the remainder of the year: In the second quarter, AnnTaylor expects to earn 38 cents to 40 cents a share, up from 34 cents to 36 cents; in the third quarter, it expects 67 cents to 69 cents a share, compared with 63 cents to 66 cents; for the fourth quarter, the company expects 48 cents to 50 cents a share, up from 44 cents to 48 cents; for the full year, it now expects $2.20 to $2.26 cents a share, compared with consensus expectations of $2.14 a share, according to Thomson Financial/First Call.

Shares closed Wednesday down 62 cents at $48.74.