Leading casual apparel chain Abercrombie & Fitch Co on Tuesday posted a better-than-expected 17 per cent jump in fourth quarter net profit on the back of strong sales.

The Ohio-based operator of 600 stores reported a net profit of $92.8 million, or 93 cents per share, versus $79.2m, or 78 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Sales climbed 15 per cent to $534.5m from $466.6m but same-store sales slipped four per cent.

For the year, net sales rose 17 per cent to $1.596 billion from $1.365bn last year. Same-store sales slipped five per cent but full-year net income increased 16 per cent to $194.9m from $168.7m in 2001.

Chairman and CEO, Mike Jeffries, said: "I am extremely pleased with our fourth quarter and total year performance. In a very tough environment we achieved record financial results. More importantly, we maintained our focus on improving the quality and long term positioning of our brands.

"Although we feel very positive about the state of our business, the retail environment remains very uncertain. As a result, we are maintaining a cautious stance in our spring planning.

"At this point, we remain comfortable with our previously announced EPS guidance of $0.25 per diluted share for the first quarter and $0.34 per diluted share for the second quarter."