Shares of Chico's FAS (CHS) touched a 52-week high Wednesday after the retailer reported stronger-than-expected increases in second-quarter earnings and sales and reiterated its fiscal 2012 forecast.  

The Toledo, Ohio-based company posted net income of $53.4 million, or 32 cents a share, up 23% compared with the year-earlier's $43.4 million, or 25 cents. The EPS was two cents ahead of average analyst estimates in a Thomson Reuters poll.

Revenue for the three months ended July 28 was $641.7 million, up 16.4% from $551.4 million a year ago, narrowly above the Street’s view of $641.3 million. Same-store sales, a key growth metric for retailers that measures sales at stores open longer than a year, climbed 5.6%.

Chico’s attributed the comparable-store sales gains to the effectiveness of its marketing plans and a “positive customer response to the company’s merchandise offering and new product launches.”

The Chico’s/Soma Intimates brands’ sales at veteran stores increased by 7.2%, while those at the White House | Black Market brand improved by 2.3%.

With the help of tighter spending and improved sales that were driven by full-price selling and promotional activities, gross margin as a percentage of sales grew by 30 points to 56.4%.

Looking toward the remainder of fiscal 2012, Chico forecasts sales of $2.55 billion to $2.6 billion, which brackets the consensus of $2.58 billion. The retailer also forecasts selling, general and administrative expenses falling by 50 points.

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