Specialty retailer of value-priced women's fashion apparel, The Cato Corporation, on Tuesday posted a 15 per cent jump in first quarter net income to $18.3 million compared to the same period last year.

The operator of 949 stores said sales climbed nine per cent to $196.6m from $180.3m in 2001, while comparable store sales increased two per cent. The record results prompted Cato to raise its earnings guidance 11 per cent to full-year net income of $47.7m.

"We are pleased with our first quarter results," said John Cato, president, vice chairman and CEO. "Our inventory is fresh and on plan as we begin the second quarter."