Women's apparel retailer Charlotte Russe Holding ( CHIC) swung to a second-quarter profit, helped by a 28% surge in total revenue.

The company also guided third-quarter earnings in line with Wall Street's consensus. The shares were recently up 54 cents, or 3.01%, to $18.49.

Charlotte Russe earned $11,000, or break-even on a per-share basis, in the latest quarter, compared with a loss of $4.9 million, or 23 cents a share, in the prior-year period. The San Diego, Calif.-based company had a loss of 1 cent a share, excluding certain store closure costs, in the latest quarter, compared with a loss of 7 cents a share a year earlier. On that basis, analysts were calling for a loss of 1 cent a share.

Operating income was $13,000, from a loss of $8 million in last year's quarter.

Total sales were $118.8 million, up from $93.1 million last year. Same-store sales increased 3.5% in the quarter ended March 27, compared with an 11.6% decline in the year-ago period. Inventories at stores open at least a year fell by 2%, however, the company said.

"Strong sales of clearance merchandise immediately after the Christmas holiday provided a good start for the quarter; however, the markdowns realized during that promotion period were higher than last year's post-holiday clearance," Charlotte Russe said.

The company added: "Our customer seems to be shopping more than she has in a while. March sales reflected the strength of accessories and sales of apparel at promotional prices."

The company sees EPS of 15 to 19 cents in the third quarter, assuming no significant change in the overall retailing environment, which would compare with 12 cents last year. Analysts are expecting a profit of 16 cents a share. Charlotte Russe also forecast same-store sales up in the single digits.

The company said it opened 24 stores in the first half of fiscal 2004, and it expects to open about 25 more new Charlotte Russe and Rampage stores during the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. The company expects to make $28 million of capital expenditures in fiscal 2004.

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