Women's fashion titan Liz Claiborne Inc on Thursday posted a 13 per cent year-on-year jump in third quarter earnings as it defied the retail slowdown thanks to higher sales and better inventory management.

The New York-based firm, behind brands such as Liz Claiborne, Bora Bora, Lucky Brand and Crazy Horse, said its net income climbed to $83.5 million, or 78 cents a diluted share, from $72.6m, or 69 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales for the quarter rose 3.3 per cent to $1.04 billion, with nine month net sales up 6.3 per cent to a record $2.72bn.

Liz said it expects fourth quarter sales to jump between seven to nine per cent, with earnings per share of 57-58 cents, and sees fiscal 2003 sales up nine to 11 per cent and earnings per share of $2.47 to $2.52, boosted by five cents a share from its recent purchase of Ellen Tracy.

Chairman and CEO, Paul Charron, stated: "We are pleased to report our third quarter results, which represent our 27th consecutive quarter of sales growth and our 31st consecutive quarter of growth in earnings per share (before restructuring charges and special investment gains).

"We also continued the execution of our multi-brand, multi-channel diversification strategy with our recent acquisition of Ellen Tracy, a fashion apparel company that designs, wholesales and markets women's sportswear."

He continued: "Notwithstanding the challenging retail and macroeconomic environment, our company was still able to deliver solid third quarter results, driven by the strength of our balanced and diversified portfolio, disciplined execution and continued conservative planning.

"Our sales, operating margin and EPS all met or exceeded our expectations. We also remain especially pleased with our balance sheet and cash flow positions at the end of the quarter."