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Stage Stores Inc. (SSI - Snapshot Report), an operator of department stores and off-price stores in the small and mid-sized towns and communities of the United States, recently reported improved comparable store sales (comps) and total sales for the month of June, on the back of attractive merchandise range and successful implementation of the sales events.

During the five week period ended June 30, 2012, Stage Stores reported total sales of $141.0 million, representing an increase of 5.8% from $134.0 million in the comparable period last year. Comps increased 3.3% compared with a rise of 1.8% in the prior-year period.

For Stage Stores, comps improved considerably across all the categories and geographical regions in the month of June. The categories that performed above average in the month were cosmetics, footwear, home & gifts and men’s products. Geographically, the Northeast, South Central, which includes Texas and the Southwest regions, registered a rise in comps.

Year-to-date, company’s total sales increased 6.5% to $637.0 million from $598.0 million in the prior-year period, whereas comps rose 3.8% for the same period.

For the month of May, Stage Stores recorded an increase of 8.0% in comps, and total sales came in at $130.0 million, reflecting an increase of 11.1% year over year. On an average, for the second quarter to date, comps increased 5.5% versus 0.9% in the comparable prior-year period, whereas total sales jumped 8.0% year over year to $271.0 million.

Stage Stores continued to expand its store count in the month of June by opening 3 new Steele’s stores in Pampa and Sulphur Springs in Texas and Leesville in LA. The company opened about 6 new department stores and 9 new Steele's stores, while it also added 7 Estee Lauder and 7 Clinique counter in the first-quarter of 2012. Additionally, the company witnessed strong upside in its e-commerce business.

The company's net sales for the first-quarter of 2012 came in at $365.7 million, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $362.0 million and increasing 5.5% year over year. Comparable store sales were up 2.5%, while merchandise margins expanded 55 basis points during the quarter.

Stage Stores, which competes with Cache Inc. (CACH - Snapshot Report), ended the month of June with 832 retail outlets across 40 states. Based on stellar first-quarter 2012 results and solid comps performance, the company carries a Zacks #1 Rank, which implies a short-term Strong Buy rating for the next 1-3 months. This correlates with our long-term Outperform recommendation on the stock.

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