[Operator Instructions] I will now turn the call over to Bob Wells.Robert J. Wells Thanks, Jackie. In order to allow more time for questions, we've provided balance sheet items and other selected information on our website at www.sherwin.com under Investor Relations First Quarter Press Release. Summarizing overall company performance for the first quarter 2012 versus first quarter 2011, consolidated net sales increased 15.1% to $2.14 billion due primarily to higher paint sales volume and selling price increases. The combination of acquisitions and currency translation had little effect on sales in the quarter. Consolidated gross profit dollars increased $112.4 million for the quarter to $909.8 million. Gross margin decreased 40 basis points to 42.6% of sales from 43% in the first quarter last year. Selling, general and administrative expenses for the quarter increased $66.6 million over first quarter last year to $557.7 million. As a percent of sales, SG&A decreased to 35.5% in the quarter this year from 37.2% last year. Interest expense decreased $338,000 compared to first quarter last year. Consolidated profit before taxes in the quarter increased $47.6 million or 50% to $142.3 million. Our effective tax rate in the first quarter this year was 29.6% compared to 27.9% in the first quarter of 2011. For the full year 2012, we expect our effective tax rate will be in the low 30% range compared to last year's rate of 40.4%. As a reminder, our 2011 income tax expense included a onetime income tax charge of approximately $75 million to satisfy our settlement with the IRS. Consolidated net income increased $31.9 million to $100.2 million. Net income as a percent of sales was 4.7% compared to 3.7% in the first quarter last year. Diluted net income per common share for the quarter increased to $0.95 per share from $0.63 per share in 2011.
Looking at our results by operating segment. For our Paint Stores Group in first quarter 2012, sales increased 20.9% to $1.12 billion from $929.3 million last year. Comparable store sales, that is sales by stores open more than 12 calendar months, increased 20.4%. The increase in sales for the segment was due primarily to higher paint sales volumes across all end market segments and higher selling prices. Regionally, in the first quarter, our Midwest division led all divisions, followed by the Eastern division, Southwestern division and Southeastern division.Segment profit for the group increased 63.7% to $112.7 million in the quarter, as higher sales volume and selling pricing increases more than offset higher raw material costs and SG&A spending. Segment operating margin increased to 10% from 7.4% in the first quarter last year. Turning to the Consumer Group. Sales in the first quarter increased 8.6% to $320.4 million as a result of selling price increases and volume increases. Segment profit for the Consumer Group increased 34.6% in the quarter to $55.3 million. Segment profit as a percent of external sales increased to 17.3% from 13.9% in the same period last year. The improvement in operating margin was due primarily to continued tight expense control and price increases that were partially offset by raw material cost increases. For our Global Finishes Group, sales in U.S. dollars increased 11% to $483.1 million in the quarter due primarily to higher paint sales volume, selling price increases and acquisitions. In the quarter, acquisitions increased net sales by 3.9%, and unfavorable currency translation rate changes decreased sales by 2.3%. First quarter segment profit increased 47.3% to $28.6 million due to higher sales volume and selling prices, partially offset by higher raw material costs. Currency rate changes and acquisition had no significant impact on segment profits in the quarter. As a percent of sales, segment profit increased to 5.9% from 4.5% in the same period last year. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com