By  on December 3, 2009

Julian Geiger is going out on a high note after 13 years as Aéropostale Inc.’s chief executive officer.

Geiger, who under a plan laid out in September will cede day-to-day control later this fiscal year but continue as chairman, had much to crow about on what he said would likely be his final quarterly conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Third-quarter profits rose 46.9 percent on a 10 percent increase in comparable-store sales, growth that will fuel a rise in capital expenditures next year and support 25 additional flagships and 25 to 30 new doors for the budding P.S. from Aéropostale kids’ concept.

Geiger betrayed just a hint of emotion and a ceo’s cheerleading bravado on the call and took pains to highlight his employees’ contributions to Aéropostale’s successes. “Our brand and our business have never been stronger and are capturing the loyalty of the teen customer and their parents,” he said.

President and chief merchant Mindy Meads and executive vice president and chief operating officer Thomas Johnson will lead the company as co-ceo’s once Geiger steps down. And they’re planning on keeping the business humming.

“We are focused on building a solid infrastructure to support the growth of our business,” Johnson said on the call. “Aéropostale is more productive, sells more units per square foot and turns its inventory faster than any other primary competitors. Accordingly, pursuing technology to drive efficiency is becoming increasingly important.”

Profits for the quarter ended Oct. 31 increased to $62.6 million, or 92 cents a diluted share, 1 cent above the consensus estimate. That compares with year-ago profits of $42.6 million, or 63 cents. Net sales advanced 17.8 percent to $567.8 million from $482 million. Gross margin rose to 39.3 percent of sales from 36 percent.

For the nine months, earnings advanced 63.7 percent to $132.9 million, or $1.95 a diluted share, from $81.2 million, or $1.20. Sales increased 19.5 percent to $1.43 billion from $1.2 billion.

Fourth-quarter profits are expected to rise in a range of $1.20 to $1.24 from $1.01 a year earlier. The range includes the $1.22 consensus estimate for the period, disappointing some investors who’d hope for a more bullish outlook. Shares were down 7.5 percent in after-hours trading after climbing 1.5 percent to $32.70 Wednesday prior to the earnings announcement.

As the New York-based Aéropostale expands its 954-door footprint next year, it is planning on capital expenditures of about $70 million, up from an estimated $50 million for this year.

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