Department store retailer Target Corporation has seen its first quarter earnings surge 28.5%, helped by a strong performance from its high margin apparel lines.

The Minneapolis  based firm, which operates 1,740 stores, said net earnings rose to $671m or $0.90 per share in the quarter, up from $522m or $0.69 per share in the same period a year ago.

“Our retail segment delivered results well above our expectations, as sales of higher margin discretionary items were particularly strong, especially in apparel,” said chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel.

“Profitability in our credit card segment was also well above expectations, as declining risk levels led to a sharp reduction in bad debt expense compared with a year ago.”

Sales in the three months to 1 May increased 5.5% to $15.2bn thanks to a 2.8% rise in same-store sales and the contribution from new stores.

In the retail segment, which includes large general merchandise and food discount stores, earnings before interest expense and income taxes (EBIT) were up 15.2% to $1,108m from $962m last time.