AnnTaylor Stores Corp. bumped up its first-quarter earnings projections on strength in its Loft division and better expense and inventory control.

The specialty retailer said earnings, excluding restructuring costs, would come in at 45 to 47 cents a diluted share, on par with year-ago earnings of 46 cents. The company previously projected profits of 35 to 40 cents.

Sales for the three months ended May 3 rose 2 percent to about $592 million.

Even with the uptick in the first quarter, the company is sticking by its annual earnings estimate of $1.80 to $1.90, excluding restructuring costs.

“Despite the fact that our first-quarter results are tracking ahead of our plan, and we are confident in our business strategy, we remain cautious about our outlook for the balance of the year,” said Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer.

For complete coverage, see Tuesday’s issue of WWD.

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