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Distressed Goods Fuel Ross Success

Off-price operator Ross Stores scored healthy fourth-quarter gains and a very strong 2008 overall, on the strength of abundant goods and bargain-driven consumers — as well as strong internal controls.

"The huge amount of close-out opportunities in the marketplace" afforded many buying opportunities, said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo of the 957-unit retailer. "This enabled us to deliver fresh and exciting assortments of sharply priced name brand bargains to our customers. More importantly, we accomplished this while also operating the business with leaner in-store inventories, which drove faster turns and reduced markdowns, resulting in higher merchandise gross margin."

Ross reported record Q4 earnings of $97.4 million, or 76 cents per share — up 9% from 70 cents EPS in the same period one year ago.

For the year ended Jan. 31, Ross Stores earnings zoomed up 23% to $2.33 EPS, or up 17% to $305.4 million.

Fiscal 2008 sales of $6.5 billion were up 9% on a comp gain of 2%.

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