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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 strong comparable store sales (comps) and total sales for the month of October, on the back of attractive merchandise range.

During the period ended October 27, 2012, Stage Stores reported total sales of $113.0 million, representing an increase of 9.8% from $102.0 million in the comparable period last year. Comps increased 6.5% compared with 0.8% in the prior-year period.

For Stage Stores, comps improved considerably across all the categories and geographical regions in the month under review. The categories that performed above-average in the month were cosmetics, home & gifts, junior sportswear and men’s and misses sportswear. Geographically, the Northeast, South Central, the Midwest, and the Southwest regions, registered a rise in comps.

Management believes that October proved to be an excellent month for the company and the momentum is expected to continue further in the fourth quarter. The company is confident for the upcoming holiday season based on its varied range of merchandise collections, attractive promotional and store events.

Year-to-date, Stage Stores’ total sales increased 8.2% to $1,118.0 million from $1,033.0 million in the prior-year period, whereas comps climbed 5.3% for the same period.

Recently, Stage Stores' peer Ross Stores Inc. (ROST - Analyst Report) also reported net sales and comps for the month of October. The company's net sales increased 8.0% to $715.0 million for the month, whereas comparable store sales escalated 4%.

Stage Stores continued to expand its store count in the month of October by opening 9 new stores. The company inaugurated 3 new Goody’s stores at Marianna in Florida, Pell City in Alabama and Morganfield in Kentucky, respectively. Also, it added 2 Peebles stores at Taneytown in Maryland and Brockport in New York, 1 Bealls stores at Mountain Home in Idaho and 3 Steele’s stores at Houma in Louisiana and Uvalde and Mount Pleasant in Texas.

The company's net sales for the third-quarter of 2012 came in at $371.0 million, exceeding the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $363.0 million and increasing 11.1% year over year. Comparable store sales went up 8.1%, compared with a decline of 0.6% in the last-year quarter. The company is expected to release its third-quarter 2012 financial results on Thursday, November 15, 2012, before market opens.

Stage Stores ended the month of October with 851 retail outlets across 40 states. Based on stellar third-quarter 2012 sales 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. Moreover, this correlates with our long-term ‘Outperform’ recommendation on the stock.

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