HINGHAM, Mass. — Boosted by higher sales and a decline in expenses, profits at The Talbots Inc. climbed 21.9 percent in the third quarter with a 17.6 percent rise in sales. In the quarter ended Oct. 29, Talbots earned $20 million, or 57 cents a share, matching Wall Street estimates, against $16.4 million, or 47 cents, a year ago. Sales rose to $215.8 million from $183.5 million.
Store sales gained 21 percent to $170.5 million from $140.5 million. Same-store sales grew 8.2 percent, and catalog sales were up 5 percent to $45.3 million.
In the nine months, earnings jumped 27.6 percent to $45.5 million, or $1.30, from $35.7 million, or $1.02.
Sales moved ahead 18.8 percent to $615.2 million from $517.9 million. Retail sales for the nine months rose 22 percent to $490.2 million and same-store sales increased 9.2 percent. Sales for Talbots’ catalog division grew 7 percent to $125 million.
Arnold Zetcher, president and chief executive officer, said improvement in the latest quarter was “primarily due to an increase in sales and a reduction in selling, general and administrative expenses as a percentage of sales.” He added that this more than offset a reduction in gross margins, which reflected the addition of selected merchandise to the company’s regular mid-season sale.
Zetcher noted that store and catalog inventories were well positioned for the holiday season.
During the latest quarter, Talbots opened 12 stores and

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