Macy's is benefiting from a years-long effort to offer more exclusive products, which commands a higher profit per item and gives the chain more pricing power, allowing stores to cater to regional tastes.
Macy's, whose shoppers are considered by analysts to be less price-conscious than those of rivals J.C. Penney Co Inc
That easily topped the 18 cents Wall Street analysts on average were forecasting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Looking ahead, Macy's raised its guidance, saying it expects same-store sales to rise 4 percent for the rest of the year, which would come to 4.3 percent for the whole year, including the first quarter. Macy's had forecast 3 percent at the start of 2011.
The retailer also raised its fiscal 2011 profit forecast by 15 cents per share on both ends of the range and now expects to earn between $2.40 and $2.45.
Sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose 5.4 percent, as Macy's previously reported, while overall sales rose 5.7 percent to $5.9 billion.
Gross margin, which reflects the profitability of the items Macy's sells, slid 0.3 percentage points to 39.1 percent as Macy's dealt with rising cotton costs. But the company has repeatedly said its clout with vendors was mitigating some of that risk.
Macy's, which operates about 850 department stores under its own and the Bloomingdale's names, also doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents per share.
Macy's shares rose $1.17 to $28.05 in premarket trading. The stock hit a yearly high of $26.88 last week.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Maureen Bavdek)