Stronger than expected sales and margins during the holiday season have prompted Ascena Retail Group Inc - formerly The Dress Barn - to raise its full year earnings guidance.

The company, which operates the Dressbarn, Maurices and Justice brands, now expects earnings per share in a range of $2.20 to $2.25 for the fiscal year ending 30 July. This is up from previous guidance of $2.05 to $2.15.

"We were very pleased with our sales and margin performance at each of our brands over the important holiday season," explained president and CEO David R Jaffe.

"With overall stronger than expected comp sales, we sustained our full-priced sell through rates and outperformed our expectations through excellent profitability. This was particularly true for Maurices, which led our performance during the holiday season."

The company also noted that comparable store sales for the holiday season (from Thanksgiving Day to 2 January) increased 7% on a consolidated basis. By brand, Dressbarn increased 4%, Maurices increased 16% and Justice increased 4%.