Maternity apparel retailer Mothers Work has raised its earnings guidance for fiscal 2006 after seeing sales increase 8.2% in the first half of the year.

Net income after stock option expense for the second quarter of fiscal 2006 was US$0.5m, compared to a loss of $0.1m for the same period in 2005. This gave a first-half income figure of $0.9m, compared to a loss of $0.3m last year.

Net sales for the first half increased 8.2% to $296m, with comparable store sales up 2.4%.

Mothers Work said that, given its strong sales performance so far in April and its plans for the rest of the year, it would increase its targeted diluted earnings per share range for fiscal 2006 to $1.05-1.25.

"We expect our comparable store sales for the month of April to increase at least 7%," said president and COO Rebecca Matthias.

"We believe that the oversupply conditions that plagued the maternity apparel business during our fiscal 2004 and 2005 have eased, and we believe that our strong sales trend in recent months reflects this."

Matthias added that the company was targeting sales of $157.5m-160.5m for the third quarter.