Off-price retailer The TJX Companies Inc on Wednesday said its net sales for the third quarter increased 11 per cent to $3 billion, with consolidated comparable store sales up 2 per cent.

Net income was $147 million and diluted earnings per share were $.28 after the recently announced after-tax charge of approximately $10 million, or $.02 per share, for claims related to four California lawsuits.

For the first nine months of fiscal 2003, net sales reached $8.5 billion, a 13 per cent increase over $7.5 billion last year. Year-to-date comparable store sales increased 4 per cent the company said. Net income was $424 million, and diluted earnings per share were $.78, a 13 per cent increase over last year.

At The Marmaxx Group, the combined entity of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, comparable store sales for the third quarter increased 1 per cent. Third quarter operating profit was $218 million, which was below the prior year - due to the charge related to four California lawsuits and unseasonably warm weather which hurt September sales.

Winners, in Canada, achieved a 56 per cent increase in operating income and an operating margin of 14 per cent in the quarter.

In Europe, TK Maxx saw comparable store sales increase 11 per cent over last year. New stores continued to open strongly. Operating income reached $12 million, nearly six times that of the prior year, and above expectations.