Strong third quarter sales of its Hush Puppies, Merrell and Heritage brands, coupled with a robust order backlog, today (3 October) prompted footwear maker Wolverine World Wide Inc to raise its full-year earnings expectations.

For the three months to 8 September, the Rockford, Michigan based firm said profit rose 12.8% to $29.48m, or $0.54 per share, from $26.14m, or $0.46 per share, in the same period last year.

Sales were up 3.8% to $310.2m from $298.9m as the company continued to focus on its global brands and move away from lower-margin businesses.

Blake W Krueger, CEO and president, said the company's business strategy of building a "strong portfolio of global consumer brands" sold through a "flexible distribution channel" helps "insulate us from volatility in any particular market or channel."

CFO Stephen L Gulis Jr said gross margin expanded by 100 basis points, "reflecting a better business mix and, combined with a 10 basis point decrease in expenses, drove 110 basis points of improvement in operating margin."

Inventories were down 3.4% and the order backlog for footwear at the end of the third quarter was up more than 11%.

The company said it now expects earnings per share to range from $1.63 to $1.65 for the full year, up from its previous estimate of $1.60 to $1.64. Revenues are likely to be at the lower end of the $1.2bn to $1.23bn range.

Looking ahead to 2008, initial estimates are for revenue to range from $1.245bn to $1.275bn and earnings per share to range from $1.78 to $1.84.