SEATTLE -- Nordstrom Inc. reported earnings nearly tripled in the first quarter ended April 30, well ahead of analysts' estimates.

Earnings rose to $32 million, or 39 cents a share, from $11.3 million, or 14 cents, a year earlier.

The result, which came out Tuesday after the close of the stock market, was more than 50 percent higher than Wall Street's average estimate of around 25 cents a share.

Sales increased 9.6 percent to $762.1 million from $695.6 million. Same-store sales increased 6.9 percent.

Gross margins improved to 33 percent of sales from 30.6 percent a year earlier. Selling, general and administrative expenses dropped to 28.2 percent from 29.9 percent.

Nordstrom operates 76 stores.

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