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Home Solid at Ross Stores

Home was a strong performer for Ross Stores last year. Home sales were driven by a strengthened buying team and improved execution just as weakness among some home furnishing retailers unleashed a host of opportunistic buys, executives told analysts last week.

"It's been a very good buyer's market," said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and ceo during the company's quarterly conference call.

The company's dd's Discounts format is poised for major expansion this year, adding 27 units that will more than double the size of the fledgling chain that targets bargain hunters with household incomes around $30,000. The concept will move beyond its California base into Florida, Texas, and Arizona this year, Balmuth said.

For the 53 weeks ended Feb. 3, Ross earnings per share rose 25% to $1.70, compared to $1.36 for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 28, 2006. Earnings for the recent fiscal year were a record $241.6 million compared to $199.6 million in 2006.

Sales for the year jumped 13% to $5.57 billion. Comps rose 4% on top of a 6% increase in the prior year. For the fourth quarter, EPS grew 35% to $0.66, compared vs. $0.49 for in the year-earlier period. Profit climbed 31% to $93.1 million. Sales increased 14% to $1.61 billion, with comps rising 1% on top of a 6% increase in the prior year.

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