Inventory discipline helped The TJX Cos. Inc. increase its profits 7 percent despite decelerating sales trends.


For the three months ended Oct. 30, net income was $372.3 million, or 92 cents a diluted share, 1 cent above the expectations of analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance, versus profits of $347.8 million, or 81 cents, in last year’s period.


Sales rose 5.4 percent to $5.53 billion from $5.24 billion. Same-store sales were up 1 percent for the total company and for the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls nameplates in the U.S. operated as Marmaxx Group.


Gross margin was flat at 27.5 percent of sales.


Carol Meyrowitz, president and chief executive officer, said, “Earnings per share increased 14 percent on top of 40 percent EPS growth last year, demonstrating our ability to continue to grow earnings even against challenging comparisons.”


She added that profit margins were boosted by tight inventories and that customer traffic continued to be up over last year’s gains even though warm weather in September and October hurt demand for cold-weather apparel.


“Our lean inventory position enables us to make the right buys and deliver great value…. We will be flowing fresh, gift-giving selections in a variety of categories throughout the holiday selling season and believe that value will continue to be top-of-mind for consumers,” Meyrowitz said.


For the nine months, income rose 23.2 percent to $1.01 billion, or 45 cents a diluted share, from $818.6 million, or 36 cents,  last year. Sales rose 8.8 percent to $15.61 billion from $14.3 billion.


During the quarter, the company spent $256 million in stock repurchases, retiring 6 million shares.


Based on its projection for a same-store sales decline of 1 percent to 3 percent in the fourth quarter, the company reaffirmed its expectations for EPS of 89 cents to 94 cents a diluted share, translating to flat to 5 percent below the 94 cents reported in the 2009 period.


Shares of TJX fell 67 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $45.03 in New York Stock Exchange trading Tuesday.