Maternity apparel retailer Mothers Work has posted strong operating results for the first quarter of the 2006 financial year and significantly increased its targeted earnings guidance range for the rest of the year.

Net income for the quarter, after stock option expense, was US$0.4m, or $0.08 per common diluted share. Net sales for the first quarter of financial 2006 increased 13.3% to $151.4m, from $133.6m in the same period last year. Same-store sales increased of 3.1% for the first quarter of financial 2006 - favourably impacted by approximately 0.5% due to an extra Saturday in December.

Mothers Work's diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of $0.08 exceeded the most recent guidance range of $0.00 per share provided in a November statement.

The company is increasing its targeted diluted earnings per share range for the financial year 2006 to between $0.79 and $1.03 per share after stock option expense, from its previous after-option expense guidance range of between $0.64 and $0.87 per share.

Mothers Work president and chief operating officer Rebecca Matthias said: "The past year has been an important time of strategic transition for Mothers Work, as we significantly increased the distribution of our maternity apparel products through our new Kohl's and significantly expanded Sears initiatives, and as we continued to develop and expand our multi-brand store concepts, including our Destination Maternity Superstore.

"These multi- brand store concepts are larger and have higher average sales volume than our average store, and provide the opportunity to lower our store operating expense percentage and improve store operating profit margins over time.

"Opening these multi-brand stores will typically involve closing two or more smaller stores and frequently will involve one-time store closing costs resulting primarily from early lease terminations. As of December 31, 2005, we have 37 two-brand combo stores, 2 triplex stores, and 8 Destination Maternity Superstores."