Tween Brands Inc, a specialty retailer for girls aged 7 to 14, has posted an 18.8% rise in third quarter profit, helped by rising sales and lower operating expenses.

For the three months ended 28 October 2006, earnings per share were up 21% to $0.58 on net income of $19.0m. This compares to earnings per diluted share of $0.48 on net income of $16.0m reported for the 2005 quarter.

Net sales for the third quarter rose 13% to a record $230.5m, the company said, from $203.5m for same period last year.

Tween Brands' same-store sales increased 4% during the quarter, with this made up of a 1% increase for Limited Too stores and a 35% increase for the 82 Justice stores that were open at least one year.

Mike Rayden, Tween Brands chairman, president and chief executive officer, said the retailer delivered third quarter results in-line with its plan, adding: "Limited Too was up against some major fashion drivers from back-to-school last year, but still produced a positive comparable sales increase.

"And our Justice stores continued to surpass our year-over-year sales expectations."

Fourth quarter earnings per share are expected to be in the range of $0.95 to $1.00, which would be an increase in the range of 19% to 25% on the $0.80 per diluted share reported for fourth quarter 2005.

The company is maintaining its full year earnings guidance of $2.05 to $2.10 per diluted share. Tween Brands reported earnings per diluted share of $1.60 for fiscal 2005.