Oxford Industries Inc. said Thursday that its first-quarter profit rose 44.8 percent thanks to strong full-price selling at its Tommy Bahama brand, prompting it to raise full-year guidance.


The Atlanta-based apparel vendor recorded net income of $18.1 million, or $1.10 cents a diluted share, for the period ended April 30, compared with income of $12.5 million, or 76 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Adjusted EPS from continuing operations totaled $1.07 a share, 7 cents better than analysts, on average, expected.


Net sales grew 27.3 percent to $208.3 million from $163.6 million in the 2010 quarter.


Gross margin for the quarter improved to 56.5 percent of sales from year-ago margin of 54.8 percent.


The company said margin expansion was aided by stronger full-priced selling at Tommy Bahama, which recorded a sales increase of 12.6 percent to $122.9 million.


At Lily Pulitzer, which the firm acquired on Dec. 21, sales totaled $29.9 million. The company credited the sales growth to trendy spring and summer product, as well as to a burgeoning effort to expand the brand’s consumer base through digital and social media efforts.


Oxford’s Ben Sherman division saw sales slip 12.6 percent to $19.4 million, but this was offset by an 8.6 percent rise in sales at the company’s Lanier Clothes brand, to $33 million.


“We had a first quarter that exceeded our expectations pretty dramatically,” said chairman and chief executive officer J. Hicks Lanier, who underlined Oxford’s commitment to further developing its e-commerce business and becoming “more selective” in wholesale distribution. “We are certainly cognizant of the macroeconomic deterioration in recent weeks and have factored that into our outlook for the balance of the year.”


On the conference call, however, the ceo noted that some of the economic turbulence wasn’t impacting Oxford’s consumer, and said the company is increasing its full-year EPS outlook to between $2.15 and $2.25 a share on sales of $730 million to $745 million. In March, it projected earnings of $1.95 to $2.05 a share on revenue of $725 million to $740 million.


Wall Street had been looking for annual EPS of $2.04 on sales of $732.2 million.


Terry Pillow, ceo of Tommy Bahama, told analysts that the firm this summer will relocate a “high-level executive with significant Asian experience from our Seattle headquarters” to Hong Kong to spearhead efforts for the brand in Asia.


Shares Tuesday declined 3.7 percent to $34.51 prior to the disclosure of results but rose 4.3 percent in early after-hours trading to $36.

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