PLEASANTON, Calif.–Improved merchandise margins and a healthy sales gain fueled Ross Stores to a 15 percent increase in fourth-quarter net income, to $161.8 million.
The retailer’s gross margin rose 105 basis points to 27.2 percent, and net sales for the quarter, which ended on Jan. 29, picked up 8.4 percent to $2.1 billion. The gains were partially offset by selling, general and administrative expenses, which rose 12 percent in dollar terms and increased 44 basis points as a percentage of net sales, to 14.9 percent.
Ross’ gains in net income and net sales for the fiscal year as a whole were even more impressive. Net income finished the year at $554.8 million, up 25 percent over the prior year, and sales rose 9.5 percent to $7.9 billion.
Michael Balmuth, Ross’ vice chairman and CEO, said the company’s gains in both the fourth quarter and the fiscal year “were well ahead of expectations.” Balmuth added that the growth for both periods was notable considering the large increases for both the quarter and the fiscal year last year. Net income and net sales increased by 47 percent and 14 percent, respectively, in last year’s fourth quarter, and by 45 percent and 11 percent, respectively, for the year.