NEW YORK — Sales and gross margin gains pushed The Dress Barn Inc. to greater profits in the first quarter.

For the three months ended Oct. 26, the Suffern, N.Y.–based specialty retailer reported net income advanced 11 percent to $8.8 million, or 23 cents a diluted share, versus the year-ago period when the company had earnings of $7.9 million, or 21 cents.

Sales for the quarter rose 2.1 percent to $185.9 million from $182.1 million a year ago, but same-store sales dipped 2 percent.

"Our first-quarter earnings performance was driven by increased operating margins," said chairman Elliot Jaffe in a statement. "We continue to tightly manage our inventories and cost structure during these challenging and uncertain times. We believe continued margin improvement will be difficult to sustain into the holiday season given weak consumer spending forecasts and the continued highly promotional retail environment."

Greater efficiency was reflected in a 130-basis-point gross margin increase to 35.6 percent of sales from 34.3 percent in the prior-year quarter. That helped grow operating income to $12.1 million, or 6.5 percent of sales, from $10.8 million, or 5.9 percent of sales a year ago.

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