Women's and children’s apparel chain Talbots Inc on Wednesday posted an 18 per cent year-on-year jump in second quarter earnings on the back of higher sales of both full-price and discounted merchandise.

The Massachusetts-based operator of 855 stores said its net income climbed to $20 million, or 33 cents per diluted share, compared to $17.8m, or 28 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Earlier this month, the company posted a four per cent fall in sales to $370.4m and said same-store sales fell 10.2 per cent. Sales at retail stores fell three per cent to $323m and catalogue sales slipped five per cent.

Talbots chairman, president and CEO, Arnold Zetcher, commented: "We are delighted to have achieved record second quarter earnings… driving these results were better than expected regular-price selling of our late summer and early fall merchandise and above plan sales of our markdown merchandise.

"In addition, we were particularly pleased with our ability to effectively manage our inventory levels throughout the spring season. This enabled us to minimise our markdown exposure and generate record gross margins in the second quarter."

He added the company now plans to open 91 stores in fiscal 2003 compared to its previous plan of 82 new outlets.