The J. Jill Group today reported financial results for the third quarter ended September 23, 2000. Net sales for the third quarter increased by 25.6 per cent to $58.2m from $46.3m reported in the prior year. Operating income for the quarter totaled $6.5m or 11.2 per cent of net sales compared to a loss from operations of $6.6m last year. Net income for the period was $3.6m or $0.34 per diluted share versus a net loss of $4.2m or $0.42 per share in the comparable period last year. During the third quarter ended September 25, 1999 the company recorded special charges totaling $5.3m primarily associated with its decision to shutdown its Nicole Summers catalog concept. Gross margin for the third quarter improved significantly to 36.7 per cent compared to last year's 26.5 per cent primarily as a result of the shutdown of the Nicole Summers concept and lower clearance activity due to a stronger J. Jill business. For the nine months ended September 23, 2000 the company recorded net sales of $159.6m compared to $189.1m in the prior year. Operating income for the nine - month period was $12m or 7.5 per cent of net sales compared to $2.6m or 1.4 per cent of net sales in the prior year. Net income for the period was $6.5m or $0.63 per diluted share versus $862,000 or $0.08 per diluted share in the comparable period last year. In other developments, the company has learned that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting a formal investigation regarding trading in the securities of the company in the period prior to the company's September 20, 1999 announcement of an anticipated operating loss for the third quarter of 1999 and the shutdown of the company's Nicole Summers catalog. This investigation is ongoing, and the company is fully cooperating.