Byline: Catherine M. Curan

SEATTLE--Nordstrom is on a roll.
Citing higher merchandise margins for women's apparel, the specialty retailer reported second-quarter earnings soared 47.8 percent to $63 million, or 77 cents a share, from $42.6 million, or 52 cents, a year earlier.
Sales in the quarter ended July 31 rose 6.1 percent to $1.1 billion from $1 billion. Same-store sales increased 4 percent.
John A. Goesling, executive vice president and treasurer, said the earnings gain was fueled by higher merchandise margins, particularly in women's apparel. In the quarter, gross margins improved to 33 percent of sales from 30.1 percent. Goesling noted results in the half benefited from improving sales trends, better margins and controlled expenses in all regions.
In 1993, women's apparel accounted for 38 percent of sales.
David A. Poneman, of Sanford C. Bernstein, an investment firm, said he had expected a strong quarter, estimating 69 cents a share, but noted, "Toward the end, it became clear it was going to be much better."
Poneman said women's apparel had tough results in gross margins a year ago, which helped the comparisons.
"The outlook is very good," going forward, he said. Poneman also noted third-quarter results will get a boost from the moving of Nordstrom's anniversary event from the second quarter. In the half, earnings climbed 76.1 percent to $95 million, or $1.16 a share, from $53.9 million, or 66 cents. Sales rose 7.5 percent to $1.8 billion from $1.7 billion. Same-store sales increased 5.2 percent. Nordstrom's stock rose 5/16 Tuesday to close at 43 7/8 in over-the-counter trading. The company reported results after the market closed.
--Fairchild News Service

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