By  on February 24, 2010

The TJX Cos. Inc.’s results continued to soar as more shoppers boarded the flight to value.

During the three months ended Jan. 30, net income for the nation’s largest off-pricer jumped 57.6 percent to $395 million, or 94 cents a diluted share, from $250.7 million, or 58 cents, a year earlier. Revenues advanced 10.4 percent, to $5.94 billion from $5.38 billion, and were up 12 percent on a comparable-store basis.

Profits exceeded the 91 cents Wall Street expected, though sales fell just shy of the anticipated $5.98 billion.

“Even when the economy gets better, as these people feel more flush with money, they now have discovered that they can do pretty well shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshalls,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Howard Tubin. “[TJX has] become part of the shopping pattern and will stay that way.”

TJX shares rose $1.33, or 3.4 percent, to close at $40.51 as the S&P Retail Index advanced 8.06 points, or 2 percent, to 419.80, the biggest run-up on the index since Nov. 9. Improved results among retailers, often to higher-than-expected levels, also helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average add 91.75 points, or 0.9 percent, to end Wednesday trading at 10,374.16.

“Sales growth was driven by a large increase in transactions as we attracted new customers from all income levels,” said Carol Meyrowitz, president and chief executive officer.

Year-end inventories were down 3.3 percent versus a year ago despite the sales increase.

The Framingham, Mass.-based firm’s net income for the year grew 37.8 percent to $1.21 billion, or $2.84 a diluted share. Revenues stepped up 6.8 percent to $20.29 billion.

TJX said earnings this year are expected to rise to $3.06 to $3.20 a share as comps increase 1 to 2 percent. About $750 million in capital expenditures are anticipated.

Below, results from the other specialty stores reporting results Wednesday.

Shares of Zale Corp. Wednesday climbed 8.6 percent, the most of any of the 172 issues tracked by WWD, as cost cuts and reduced holiday promotions helped the struggling jewelry retailer swing to a second-quarter profit and exceed consensus estimates despite diminished sales.

For the three months ended Jan. 31, the Dallas-based firm posted net income of $6.7 million, or 21 cents a diluted share, versus a loss of $31.8 million, or $1 a share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Yahoo Finance had expected earnings per share of 2 cents, on average.

Sales in the quarter fell 14.3 percent to $582.3 million from $679.4 million in the comparable period. Same-store sales fell 11.2 percent.

The company credited expense cuts and less holiday discounting for the return to the black. Gross margin in the quarter improved 580 basis points to 49.8 percent. The company reduced selling, general and administrative costs by 13.7 percent in the quarter to $251 million.

Zale has lagged behind other jewelry merchants in regaining sales momentum and cut orders and delayed some payments to vendors after a difficult holiday season. It cut ties with former ceo Neal Goldberg in January and, earlier this month, hired investment bank Peter J. Solomon Co. to advise on restructuring options.

On a conference call Wednesday, executive vice president and chief financial officer Matt Appel said the firm in the next three months would focus on seeking new capital to shore up liquidity. Several reports this week indicated private equity player Apollo Management has an interest in taking a stake in the jewelry chain. Appel said Zale wouldn’t comment specifically on any capital-raising strategies until the process was completed.

Shares closed at $2.78, up 22 cents.

Zale’s year-to-date losses narrowed to $53.1 million, or $1.66 a share, from $80.2 million, or $2.52 a share. Sales in the first half fell 12.7 percent to $911.5 million.

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