January same-store sales at Gap Inc, the leading US retail chain, rose by 16 per cent the company announced today. The results mark its fourth straight month of same-store sales growth following a 29-month slide.

Total sales for the four weeks ended 1 February were $846 million, up 24 per cent from $684 million in the same period a year earlier.

"Positive customer response to Holiday product assortments across all brands helped drive momentum in the month and enabled us to clear merchandise at better markdown margins," said Sabrina Simmons, vice president, treasury and investor relations. "Old Navy performance was strongest, with customer acceptance of product supporting substantial improvements in markdown margins."

The retailer, which operates Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy stores, reported its fourth straight month of same-store sales growth following a 29-month slide.

Store sales in the Gap Domestic division were 7 per cent ahead; Gap International was up 18 per cent; Banana Republic up 11 per cent; and Old Navy soared 27 per cent.

For the fourth quarter sales of $4.7 billion represent an increase of 14 per cent compared with sales of $4.1 billion for the same period ended 2 February 2002. Same-store sales increased 8 per cent.

Year-to-date net sales of $14.5 billion for the 52 weeks ended 1 February 2003 increased 4 per cent compared to net sales of $13.8 billion for the same period last year. Year-to-date same-store sales decreased 3 per cent.

Commenting on fiscal 2002 year-end earnings Ms Simmons said: "We expect year-end earnings per share to be $0.51 to $0.57."