NEW YORK — Led by strength in its retail stores, Coldwater Creek Inc. posted healthy bottom- and top-line gains in the third quarter.

For the three months ended Nov. 1, the Sandpoint, Idaho-based multichannel retailer said net earnings grew 16 percent to $5.6 million, or 23 cents a diluted share, which matched the Wall Street forecast. By comparison, last year the firm had profits of $4.8 million, or 20 cents.

Sales for the period climbed 7.2 percent to $138.2 million from $128.8 million a year ago. Robust sales in its fast-expanding retail stores segment more than offset declines in catalogue and Internet sales.

By division, stores and outlets advanced 45.9 percent to revenues of $54.3 million from $37.2 million a year ago and accounted for 39.3 percent of total company sales, compared with 28.9 percent last year. Internet sales, however, dipped 0.7 percent to $39.1 million, while catalogue sales withered 14.3 percent to $44.7 million. Taken together, Internet and catalog sales represented 60.7 percent of net revenues in the quarter, down from 71.1 percent in the prior-year period.

“We were pleased with the strong response to fall merchandise in our retail stores,” said chief executive officer Dennis Pence in a statement. “In particular, the smaller format stores we tested in six new markets have performed above expectations, which, combined with solid performance in our retail store base, has allowed us to leverage store occupancy costs.”

Expense leverage showed up in a 200 basis-point contraction in selling, general and administrative costs to 34.7 percent of sales.

Addressing weakness in the challenging catalogue channel, Spence said that beginning in January, Coldwater Creek will merge the Spirit and Elements catalogues, “combining the best merchandise from both in a lifestyle book titled Spirit.”

Overall, for the first nine months of the fiscal year, Coldwater Creek said profits soared by nearly half, or 48.2 percent, to $6.1 million, or 25 cents a diluted share. That compares with last year’s earnings of $4.1 million, or 17 cents. Sales for the period grew 7 percent to $350 million from $327.2 million a year ago.

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