By  on May 27, 2005

NEW YORK — With robust top- and bottom-line first-quarter growth, Chico's FAS Inc. is positioned for another banner year.

The specialty retailer reported on Thursday a slightly better than expected 32.3 rise in first-quarter net income, on a 27.4 percent jump in revenues. Key segments in the quarter included denim, sweaters and knits.

For the 13 weeks ended April 30, Chico's earned $47.2 million, or 26 cents a share, which was ahead of analysts' consensus estimate for 25 cents. The company had a profit of $35.7 million, or 20 cents, in the same quarter last year. Results are adjusted for a 2-for-1 stock split completed in February.

Total revenues climbed to $327.3 million from $256.8 million a year ago. Combined sales at Chico's and Soma stores totaled $267.6 million, up 22.5 percent, while sales at White House/Black Market rose 63.9 percent to $49.2 million.

The company had said in early May that same-store sales at company-owned stores rose 10.8 percent during the first quarter.

During a post-earnings conference call with investors, Chico's executives said that denim and novelty jackets were strong-selling categories during the quarter at Chico's, while sales at White House/Black Market were driven by sweaters, bottoms, dresses and knits.

Scott A. Edmonds, president and chief executive officer of Chico's, said in a Thursday statement that same-store sales at both Chico's and White House/Black Market are "at the double-digit level" in the current second quarter.

For the second quarter, analysts are calling for a profit of 25 cents.

At the end of the first quarter, Fort Myers, Fla.-based Chico's operated 465 Chico's stores, 27 Chico's outlet stores, 178 White House/Black Market locations, four White House/Black Market outlet stores and 10 Soma by Chico's intimate apparel sites.

Shares of Chico's closed up 1.3 percent at $31.35 in Thursday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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