California-based retailer Ross Stores says earnings per share for the third quarter rose 24% to $0.31, from $0.25 for the comparable period in 2005.

Net earnings for the 2006 third quarter were $43.9m, up from $36.3m for the same quarter last year.

The company reported that third-quarter sales rose 10% to $1.36bn, from $1.24bn last year, while same-store sales for the period increased 4% on top of a strong 9% gain in the prior year comparable quarter.
For the first nine months of 2006, earnings per share grew 20% to $1.04 from $0.87 for the nine months period in 2005. Sales for the first nine months rose 12% to $3.96bn.

Ross Stores vice chairman, president and CEO Michael Balmuth said: "Third-quarter earnings were better than planned, benefiting from healthy sales trends and a measurable improvement in operating margin."

Regionally, the company's strongest sales performance during the quarter was in the Southwest and Texas, while home and shoes remained the top-performing merchandise categories.