New units help Cost Plus sales

OAKLAND, Calif. — Building sales, and at the same time tweaking costs, Cost Plus Inc. pushed earnings in the opening quarter up 28.6 percent, to $3.3 million from $2.6 million.

Sales at the specialty retailer of casual home furnishings and entertaining products jumped 16.6 percent, to $185.7 million from $159.2 million the preceding year, aided largely by the rollout of new units. Same-store sales rose at a more moderate pace of 3.4 percent, building on a gain of 3 percent the year before.

Tugging downward at the bottom line, average gross margin narrowed during the first fiscal quarter by 60 basis points, or six-tenths of a percentage point, to 33.6 percent from 34.2 percent.

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