• Swings to Q1 profit of $22.8m
  • Sales rose 11.6% to $476.2m
  • Sees double-digit rise in Q2 same-store sales

Women's wear retailer Ann Taylor Stores Corporation has seen an "excellent" start to its financial year, after a double-digit rise in same-store sales at both brands pushed it to a first quarter profit.

The company, which operates the Ann Taylor and Loft stores, swung to a profit of $22.8m or $0.38 per share in the three months to 1 May, compared with a loss of $2.3m or $0.04 per share, a year earlier.

"Clients responded positively to our spring collections at both brands, and we were pleased with the increased traffic levels and improved in-store metrics during the quarter," said president and CEO Kay Krill.

She added: "A substantial uptick in sales, including double-digit comparable sales increases at both brands, and a strong gross margin rate drove the dramatic improvement over year-ago results."

Total net sales rose 11.6% to $476.2m from $426.7m, while comparable sales were up 14.1%.

Same-store sales at Ann Taylor increased 16.4%, including a rise of 15.1% at Ann Taylor stores, 50.7% in the Ann Taylor e-commerce channel and 10.7% in the Ann Taylor Factory channel.

At Loft, total same-store sales increased 12.5%, with a rise of 9.3% at Loft stores, 59.9% in the e-commerce channel and 24.1% in the Loft Outlet channel.

Gross margin, as a percentage of net sales, was 59.4%, an improvement of 390 basis points on last year's 55.5% gross margin rate.

The better performance was mainly due to improved product offerings at both brands, higher full-price selling, effective marketing and steps to control inventory levels.

In its outlook, the company said it expects second-quarter sales of around $500m with a double-digit rise in same-store sales.

For the year, Ann Taylor sees sales of $1.95bn to $1.98bn with higher same-store sales at both its namesake and Loft chains helped by more compelling product assortments, strategic marketing initiatives and a disciplined approach to inventory management.