Specialty chain of women's apparel, Cache Inc, on Thursday revealed a huge jump in third quarter net profit as it was boosted by a strong rise in sales.

The New York-based operator of nearly 250 stores posted a net profit of $614,000, or six cents per diluted share, versus $103,000, or one cent a share, in the year-ago period.

Sales for the 13 weeks ended September 27 rose 12.3 per cent to a record $47.2 million from $42m last year with same-store sales up seven per cent.

Cache chairman, Brian Woolf, said: "Our strong third quarter results were driven by better-than-expected sales growth and a significant improvement in our gross margin.

"In addition, both our year-to-date operating income and net income have increased significantly over our prior year results. This is a testament to the strength of our merchandising strategies that we implemented in 2002 and throughout this year."

The company said it sees fourth quarter sales in the range of $64m to $66m versus $58.5m last year with quarterly earnings seen between 46 and 48 cents versus 42 cents in 2002.

For fiscal 2003, sales are seen in the range of $215m to $217m compared to $199.4m last year, while earnings are expected to be between $1.06 to $1.08 versus 93 cents in fiscal 2002.

Cache added it opened 11 new Cache stores and two new Lillie Rubin stores in the first nine months of this year and expects to open 11 new Cache stores in the fourth quarter.