Discount apparel chain Ross Stores Inc on Thursday posted a two per cent rise in August same-store sales and announced the development of a new off-price concept aimed at customers from lower-income households.

The California-based operator of 562 stores said total sales for the four weeks to August 31 rose 13 per cent to $315m from $279m last year thanks to a higher store base.

It added its as yet unnamed concept "will have similar merchandise departments and categories to that of Ross, but feature a different mix of brands, consisting of mostly moderate and discount store labels at lower average price points".

CEO Michael Balmuth said: "The store prototype is planned to be about 25,000 gross square feet located in established strip shopping centers in densely populated urban and suburban neighborhoods.

"Our goal is to open 10 initial locations on the west coast during the second half of 2004, in addition to the 12 per cent unit growth planned for Ross. Ultimately, we believe the country can support approximately 1,500 Ross locations."

He added: "Strong cash flows from our existing business are expected to enable the company to internally finance the planned roll-out of Ross Dress For Less into a national chain over the next several years and to fund this new concept, while continuing to achieve our objective of 15 per cent or better annual earnings per share gains over the long term."