May 22, 2008 / 9:43 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Aeropostale posts higher first-quarter profit

(Adds company comment)

ATLANTA, May 22 (Reuters) - Teen clothing retailer Aeropostale Inc ARO.N on Thursday posted a 27 percent rise in quarterly profit that beat its own projection on sales that topped Wall Street estimates as shoppers flocked to its spring merchandise.

Net income in the first quarter was $17.5 million, or 26 cents a diluted share, up from $13.8 million, or 18 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.

Wall Street expected earnings of 25 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose 22 percent in the quarter to $336.3 million from $275.8 million a year earlier, the company said, while same-store sales, a key gauge of retail performance, rose 10 percent.

Analysts expected revenue of $316.2 million, on average.

Gross profit expanded to 33.1 percent of sales in the quarter from 32.2 percent a year earlier.

The mall-based retailer, with more than 800 stores in the United States and Canada, recorded a whopping 25 percent jump in same-store sales, a key measure of financial performance, during the month of April, well above expectations.

This spring, the company has been a high-flyer among teen retailers and a bright spot for the retail sector in general. Some chains have struggled to attract young men and women as their parents cut back on spending amid rising prices for food and gasoline.

Earlier this month, Aeropostale had raised its earnings forecast for the first quarter to 25 cents per share from a range of 20 cents to 22 cents.

“As we head into the second quarter and important back-to-school selling season, we believe we are well positioned to continue to capture market share,” Chairman and CEO Julian Geiger said in a statement.

For the second quarter, Aeropostale expects earnings to range between 22 cents and 24 cents per share, compared with the average Wall Street target of 24 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Shares were down 2 percent to $32.00 in after-hours trading after closing at $32.72, down 3 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. (Reporting by Karen Jacobs, additional reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, Phil Berlowitz)

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