Ladies' clothing retailer The J. Jill Group Inc has reported a third-quarter net sales increase of 15.3 per cent to $94.9 million compared to the $82.3m reported in the year-before period.

The company made an operating loss for the quarter of $4.3m compared to a loss of $4.7m in 2003, and a net loss of $2.6m or $0.13 per share compared to a loss of $2.9m or $0.15 per share in the year-before period.

Comparable store sales for stores open at least one full fiscal year rose by 4.7 per cent in the third quarter of 2004 as compared to the third quarter of 2003.

For the nine months ended 25 September 2004, the company recorded net sales of $315.4m compared to $262.1m in the prior year. Operating income for the nine-month period was $10.9m or 3.5 per cent of net sales compared to $7.3m or 2.8 per cent of net sales in the prior year.

Net income for the nine months was $6.1m or $0.30 per diluted share versus $4.0m or $0.20 per diluted share in the previous year.

The J. Jill Group is a specialty retailer of ladies' apparel, including accessories and footwear. The company currently markets its products through retail stores, catalogues and its website