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Ross Stores rebounds with 4Q gains

Bounding back from earlier weakness, Ross Stores Inc., an apparel and home fashions off-price retailer, boosted fourth-quarter profits by 10.4 percent, to $50.0 million from $45.2 million last year.

Boosted by rapid expansion and solid improvement in same-store sales, overall sales rose by 8.9 percent, to $848.4 million from $779.1 million last year.

Improving sequentially throughout the year, the crucial gauge of same-store sales climbed a hefty 8 percent in the holiday quarter. After dropping by 3 percent in the first quarter, same-store sales improved by 1 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third before scoring the big 8 percent gain in the most recent quarter.

Ross is one of a class of "stealth" home fashions retailers, easily overlooked because it's thought of mostly as an apparel retailer. In fact, it ranked 34th in Home Textiles Today's ranking of the Top 50 home fashions retailers in 2000, with the category generating about $134 million in sales, up about 16.5 percent from the year before.

Indeed, Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and ceo, said some of the credit for the improvement in sales is due to a greater variety of product in Ross's non-apparel business.

Continuing to roll out new units at a rapid pace, Balmuth said, "Our accelerated expansion program remains on track. We added 43 net new stores during the year, resulting in 11 percent square footage growth. Thirteen of these locations were in our new Southeast markets of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. During 2002, we expect our store base to grow about 11 percent to 12 percent, with a net addition of 50 to 55 stores in both new and existing markets."

Ross Stores Inc.

Qtr. 2/2/02 (x000) 2002 2001 % change
Sales $848,374 $779,107 8.9
Oper. income (EBIT) 82,052 75,392 8.8
Net income 49,970 45,247 10.4
Per share (diluted) 0.62 0.56 10.7
Average gross margin 30.2% 30.2%
SG&A expenses 19.0% 19.0%
12 months
Sales 2,986,596 2,709,039 10.2
Oper. income(EBIT) 257,757 252,652 2.0
Net income 155,045 151,754 2.2
Per share (diluted) 1.91 1.82 4.9
Average gross margin 30.7% 30.9%
SG&A expenses 20.4% 19.9%


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