Leading footwear chain Brown Shoe Co Inc on Tuesday posted a 77 per cent surge in third quarter net profit to $21 million from $11.9m in 2001 on the back of "exceptional" wholesale sales.

The St Louis-based company, which operates around 1,300 stores under the Famous Footwear and Naturalizer banners, said consolidated net sales rose more than five per cent to $486.3m from $462.4m.

It added for the full year it sees earnings of $2.30 to $2.35 a share, up from its original outlook of $2.15 to $2.20, and said it remains comfortable with its fiscal 2003 earnings estimates of $2.75 a share.

"This quarter truly demonstrates the progress we've made in improving the earnings leverage at Brown Shoe Co. Like last quarter, we again earned significantly more on our sales base," said chairman and CEO Ron Fromm.

"Famous Footwear is beginning to realise the benefits from its aggressive merchandising strategy and inventory management initiatives, achieving operating earnings in the quarter, up nearly 60 per cent over year-ago levels.

"In addition, our wholesale businesses performed exceptionally in a very tough consumer environment. Strong operations together with improved operating platforms contributed to a record third-quarter EPS."