AnnTaylor Stores Corp. on Wednesday updated its fourth-quarter outlook and now expects sales at $515 million versus the previous forecast of $500 million and earnings above the current consensus estimate of analysts.


The company said comparable-store sales rose 11 percent, compared with prior guidance of an increase in the mid- to high-single-digit range. By brand, Ann Taylor gained 21 percent and Loft rose 4 percent.


Fourth-quarter earnings now are expected to exceed the analysts’ consensus estimate of 14 cents a share on a diluted basis. Gross margin for the three months was estimated at 51 percent of sales, with “solid” gross margin results at the Ann Taylor unit offset by more promotions at Loft.


Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer, said, “The higher sales performance more than offset the impact of several significant weather events as well as margin pressures at Loft and enabled us to deliver strong bottom-line results and a clean inventory position at the end of the quarter.”


The company will report fourth-quarter and full-year 2010 results on March 11.

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