Now I'd like to turn the call over to Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.Michael Balmuth Good morning. Joining me on our call today are Norman Ferber, Chairman of the Board; Michael O'Sullivan, President and Chief Operating Officer; Gary Cribb, Executive Vice President, Stores and Loss Prevention; John Call, Group Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Bobbi Chaville, Senior Director, Investor Relations. Before we review our financial results, I'd like to briefly discuss our recent announcement of an updated CEO succession plan approved by our Board of Directors. As part of this plan and at my request, the board and I have reached an agreement where I will remain with the company at least through May of 2016. My CEO role will be unchanged until June of 2014. I will then become Executive Chairman, and the board will elect the new CEO from our strong bench of very talented and skilled senior executives. The new CEO will report directly to the board and take on responsibility for most areas of the company. As the Executive Chairman, I will remain actively involved in the business, with property development and dd's DISCOUNTS continuing to report to me. Our Chairman, Norman Ferber, will become Chairman Emeritus with his current consulting role to remain unchanged. The board and I firmly believe this type of long-term succession plan will allow us to remain focused on executing the strategies that have driven our outstanding financial results over the past several years. We are also confident this plan will help us continue to maximize future stockholder returns. In a couple of years, I will partner with the new CEO to effect a smooth leadership transition. I was able to benefit from this type of mentoring relationship with Norman Ferber, who handed the CEO reins to me 16 years ago. To ensure our ongoing success over the long term, I will continue to stay very engaged with the entire senior management team in setting strategy and direction for the company. I have been privileged to work with outstanding people at Ross Stores for 23 years and look forward to continuing to do so for many years to come.
Now turning to earnings. We'll begin with a brief review of our second quarter performance, followed by our outlook for the remainder of the year. Afterwards, we'll be happy to respond to any questions you may have.We are pleased with our better-than-expected performance in the second quarter and first 6 months of 2012. Our strong sales and earnings growth for both periods continues to be driven by our ability to deliver compelling name-brand bargains to today's value-focused consumers, while strictly controlling both inventories and expenses. Earnings per share for the 13 weeks ended July 28, 2012, increased 27% to $0.81 from $0.64. These results are on top of a 20% gain in the same period last year. Net earnings for the quarter grew 23% to $182 million. Sales rose 12% to $2,341,000,000, with comparable store sales up 7% on top of 5% growth in the second quarter of 2011. For the 6 months ended July 28, 2012, earnings per share were $1.74, up from $1.38. These results represent a 26% increase on top of a 23% gain in the first half of 2011. Net earnings for the period rose 22% to $390.6 million, up from $321.2 million last year. Sales for the first 6 months of 2012 increased 13% to $4,698,000,000, with comparable store sales up 8%, which was on top of a 4% gain in the prior year period. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com