Leading clothing company Jones Apparel Group Inc on Thursday posted a sharp rise in third quarter earnings on the back of higher sales, low inventories and tight cost controls.

The owner of brands including Nine West, Jones New York and lei jeans said earnings per share under generally accepted accounting principles for the quarter rose to 95 cents from 41 cents in the year-ago period.

Excluding items, earnings per share for the quarter climbed to $1.01 from 96 cents a year ago. Revenue edged up three per cent to $1.28 billion.

Jones said as a result of its strong performance it now sees full-year earnings per share of $2.79-$2.81 and fourth quarter earnings per share target of $0.48-$0.50. It added it "remains comfortable" with its 2003 earnings guidance of $3.05 a share.

President and CEO Peter Boneparth commented: "Our strong performance for the quarter, against the background of an uncertain economic climate and its impact on retail sales, demonstrates the success of our prudent planning and the continued effective execution of our multi-brand, multi-channel strategies.

"Revenue gains resulting from the acquisitions of Gloria Vanderbilt and lei of $99 million, were partially offset by planned decreases of $63m in our core businesses reflecting conservative plans for 2002.

"Conservative planning in our core businesses and the addition of Gloria Vanderbilt and lei to our product offerings, allowed us to increase our adjusted operating margins to 18.4 per cent in 2002 from 18.2 per cent in 2001."