Before the opening bell, Ross Stores, Inc. announced earnings per share for the 13 weeks ended January 31, 2009 of $.76, up 9% from $.70 for the 13 weeks ended February 2, 2008. Net earnings for the 13 week period grew to a record $97.4 million, up from $94.5 million for the 13 weeks ended February 2, 2008. Sales for the 13 weeks ended January 31, 2009 increased 5% to $1.734 billion compared to $1.652 billion for the 13 weeks ended February 2, 2008.
For the year ended January 31, 2009, earnings per share grew 23% to $2.33 compared to $1.90 for the year ended February 2, 2008. Net earnings for the year ended January 31, 2009 increased approx. 17% to a record $305.4 million, when compared to the $261.1 million earned for the year ended February 2, 2008. Sales for the 2008 fiscal year increased 9% to $6.486 billion, with comparable store sales up 2% over the prior year.
Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are very pleased with our solid earnings per share growth for both the fourth quarter and fiscal 2008. Our results are especially noteworthy considering the extremely challenging macro-economic and retail environment that became increasingly difficult as the year progressed. A key driver of this performance was the efficient execution of our resilient and flexible off-price strategies, which included taking advantage of the huge amount of close-out opportunities in the marketplace. This enabled us to deliver fresh and exciting assortments of sharply priced name brand bargains to our customers. More importantly, we accomplished this while also operating the business with leaner in-store inventories, which drove faster turns and reduced markdowns, resulting in higher merchandise gross margin.”
Mr. Balmuth added, “Operating margin for the 2008 fourth quarter was 9.1%, up about five basis points over the prior year, as stronger merchandise gross margin was partially offset by some deleveraging of occupancy and store operating costs as well as higher distribution expenses as a percent of sales. For the 2008 fiscal year, operating margin increased about 60 basis points over the prior year to 7.6%. As a percent of sales, key drivers of our improved profitability for the year were higher merchandise gross margin and lower distribution and shortage costs, partially offset by an increase in occupancy, store operating and incentive plan expenses.”
“Solid operating cash flows during fiscal 2008 continued to provide the resources to make capital investments in new store growth and infrastructure, and fund our ongoing stock repurchase and dividend programs. During fiscal 2008, we repurchased a total of 9.3 million shares of common stock for an aggregate purchase price of $300 million and we plan to complete the remaining $300 million repurchase authorization in 2009. In January 2009, our Board of Directors also approved a 16% increase in our quarterly cash dividend to $.11 per common share. On an annual basis, this represents our 15th consecutive dividend increase,” Mr. Balmuth concluded.