For the nine weeks ended March 31, sales totaled $1.632 billion, a 15% increase over the $1.423 billion in sales for the nine weeks ended April 2, 2011. Comparable store sales for the nine weeks ended March 31 also grew 10% over the prior year period.
"We are very pleased with our much stronger than expected sales in March," said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman and chief executive officer. "Favorable weather throughout most of our markets, along with our ongoing focus on value, drove broad-based merchandise and geographic sales gains during the month."
Balmuth continued: "This year Easter fell two weeks earlier than in 2011, and it is always difficult to predict the impact on sales of such holiday shifts. While we hope to do better, we continue to forecast a 1% to 2% increase in April same store sales.
"That said, based on our better-than-expected performance in February and March, we are raising our earnings per share guidance for the first quarter ending April 28, 2012 to $.89 to $.91, up from our prior forecast of $.82 to $.86. This new range represents a projected 20% to 23% increase over earnings per share of $.74 in the prior year period."