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March Comps Drive Ross' 1Q Outlook

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Ross Stores Inc. (ROST - Free Report) , one of the largest off-price apparel and home fashion chain retailers in the U.S., reported better-than-expected same-store sales (comps) numbers for the 5 weeks ended Apr 6, 2013.

Ross Stores’ comps for March were up 2%, which surpassed the company’s forecast of a 1% – 2% decline. On a year-on-year basis, comps metrics for the month weighed against a substantially higher comps growth of 10% recorded in the year-ago period ended Mar 31, 2012. The weaker year-over-year comparisons resulted from the holiday calendar shift this year, which led to the Easter Sunday holiday falling in March this year against April last year.

Ross Stores’ total sales for the 5-week period ended Apr 6, 2013 climbed 6% to $1,036 million compared with $980 million for the 5 weeks ended Apr 7, 2012.

On a 9-week basis, Ross Stores’ comps inched up 1% compared to a 10% rise reported in the year-ago period. Net sales for 9 weeks rose 4% to $1,762 million versus $1,687 million in the year-ago period.

Based on the sales results for March, Ross Stores retained its comps growth expectations for April, projecting an increase of 5% – 6%. An encouraging April outlook along with strong sales results so far this quarter, has prompted the company to raise its earnings outlook for the first quarter of fiscal 2013.

Ross Stores now expects first quarter earnings to rise above the higher-end of its previously forecasted guidance range of $1.00 – $1.04 per share. This compares to first-quarter fiscal 2012 earnings of 93 cents per share. Currently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate stands at $1.03 per share.

Ross Stores is scheduled to report its sales results for April on May 9, 2013, while first-quarter fiscal 2013 financial results are expected to be released on May 23, 2013.

April comps for other retailers like Zumiez Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST - Free Report) were up 2.1% and up 4%, respectively, while comps at Gap Inc. (GPS - Free Report) declined 1%.

Headquartered in Pleasanton, Calif., Ross Stores operates through 1,112 ‘Ross Dress for Less’ stores in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, as well as 115 dd's DISCOUNTS stores across 9 states. Currently, the company retains a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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