Profitable growth in its expanding retail operations helped Joe’s Jeans Inc. more than quadruple first-quarter earnings.

Net income for the three months ended Feb. 29 rose to $794,000, or 1 cent a diluted share, from $190,000, or zero cents, in the 2011 quarter. Sales grew 22.6 percent to $26 million from $21.2 million a year ago and gross margin expanded to 50.4 percent of sales from 49 percent.

Joe’s, which has seen its shares more than double since the start of the year, managed to increase sales more than either cost of goods sold, up 19.3 percent to $12.9 million, or selling, general and administrative expenses, up 14.8 percent to $11 million, in the quarter. Its retail operations grew 40.1 percent, to $5.2 million, as the company added four stores, to hit 22 units, from the year-ago mark and registered a same-store sales increase of 22 percent, with full-price stores up more than 70 percent in the period.

Its retail operations, which tallied an operating loss of $119,000 in the first quarter of last year, in the more recent quarter turned a $253,000 profit. Wholesale profitability was up 27.7 percent to $5.7 million.

“The healthy increase in consolidated sales is indicative of two trends that we started seeing in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011,” observed Marc Crossman, president and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based firm. “First, our wholesale business has not only stabilized but is growing across all channels. Second, our retail strategy continues to provide material diversification to our revenue base, now representing 20 percent of our revenue for the quarter.

“Because we generated healthy increases in both retail and wholesale sales while maintaining expenses, this translated into strong growth in our operating income,” he added.

Crossman noted that the company’s new moderately priced Else brand, which began shipments in February and is available only at Macy’s stores, “contributed to our top-line growth.”

Joe’s had fallen out of compliance with Nasdaq listing requirements when its stock price fell below $1 last year. It has regained compliance with that standard this year as shares, closing at 53 cents on Dec. 30, topped $1 on March 5 and have continued upward. On Thursday, shares closed at $1.24, down 2 cents, or 1.6 percent, prior to the earnings announcement. Shares spiked more than 24 percent, to $1.54, in the first moments of after-hours trading.

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