Leading specialty retailer of value-priced women's fashion apparel, The Cato Corporation, on Tuesday posted a 10 per cent climb in full-year net income to $43.1 million from 2000.

The company, which operates 940 Cato and It's Fashion! stores, said in a news release that comparable store sales increased one per cent and total sales rose seven per cent to $685.7m.

It added fourth quarter net income surged 30 per cent and it plans to open up to 90 new stores during fiscal 2002 and sees 10 per cent growth for the rest of the year.

"This was our third consecutive year of record earnings and the fifth consecutive year of earnings improvement," said John Cato, president, vice chairman and CEO.

"We are pleased with our results for the fourth quarter and full year given the difficult retail and economic environment. We were able to leverage a one per cent comp store gain and deliver our planned 10 per cent earnings increase through effective inventory management and tightly controlled expenses."