By  on June 5, 2008

Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. continued to open more doors in the first quarter, fueling double-digit sales growth while profits dipped 19.6 percent.

Net income for the three-week period ended May 3 declined to $4.3 million, or 7 cents a diluted share, from $5.3 million, or 10 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Net sales for the quarter gained 23.3 percent to $239.3 million compared with $194.1 million a year ago.

Same-store sales gained 3.9 percent at the beauty store chain.

During the quarter, Ulta added a total of 17 stores (ahead of the planned 14 units) across Alabama, California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. The company also shuttered one door in Arizona and remodeled another in Indiana. Ulta ended the quarter with 265 doors, and grew its square footage by more than 31 percent.

It plans to add 18 new stores during the second quarter, and remains on track to open 63 doors by yearend, said Lyn Kirby, Ulta's president and chief executive officer, during the company's earnings call Wednesday evening. She later said in an interview that Ulta has not pulled back its store-opening schedule in the wake of tougher economic times.

"We will be resilient in this economy," she declared, adding that the company recognizes the challenges it presents, but said Ulta plans to continue to woo shoppers with a great store experience, motivational marketing and events and newsworthy new products.

That said, the beauty retailer peppered its mix with new brands in the quarter, including Lorac cosmetics and PureOlogy, Warren Tricomi and Oscar Blandi hair care lines. "Prestige color [cosmetics] and skin care is where we're seeing the most growth," said Kirby, noting that the company continues to expand its prestige portfolio.

She added that the retailer continues to seek out new brands, but said the search goes beyond large, established brands to innovative niche brands, as well.

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