Fashion retailer Express has seen its fourth-quarter profit jump 24.7% on the back of higher sales and improved margins.

The US firm saw net income rise to $60.4m, on the back of an 8% increase in net sales to $673.2m. Comparable store sales were up 5%. Over the quarter, gross margin increased 70bps to 37.2%.

During the full-year, net income rose 10.4% to $140.7m. Sales increased 9% to $2.1bn, with comparable-store sales rising 6%. Full-year gross margin increased 80bps to 36.4%.

The company is forecasting that first-quarter comparable sales will increase in the mid-single digits, with net income expected to be in the range of $41-44m, against $37.5m earned in the previous year.

For the full-year, it sees comparable sales up in the mid-single digits, with earnings in the range of $1.84-1.97 per share. It is planning to open around 30 new stores over the year, with 20-23 in the US and a further 7-10 in Canada.

"In 2011, we achieved, and at times surpassed, the goals we set at the beginning of the year," said chairman, president and CEO Michael Weiss. "The year saw the opening of 27 new stores, including our initial entry into the Canadian market."