By  on May 16, 2008

Urban Outfitters Inc. on Thursday posted first-quarter earnings that rose 44.9 percent, buoyed by a decrease in markdowns.

For the three months ended April 30, earnings reached $42.6 million, or 25 cents a diluted share, from $29.4 million, or 17 cents, in the year-ago period. Wall Street forecasted earnings of 23 cents a share.

Sales for the quarter spiked 25.4 percent to $394.3 million from $314.5 million, while total same-store sales increased 10 percent.

By division, comps rose 10 percent at Urban Outfitters, 10 percent at Anthropologie and 19 percent at Free People.

Gross margins ballooned 444 basis points.

Glen Senk, chief executive officer, said in a call to Wall Street that accessories led sales at all three brands and each division saw strength in the women's apparel business.

Management plans to open 45 stores during fiscal year 2009. During the quarter the company opened 12 stores, which included its first Terrain garden center.

Shares of the specialty retailer closed down 0.3 percent to $32.89.

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