Macy's reports higher profit, raises 2011 outlook

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Macy's Inc <M.N> reported a higher quarterly profit as middle-class shoppers continued to increase their spending and the department store operator raised its profit and sales outlook for 2011, sending its shares up more than 4 percent.

Macy's is benefiting from a years-long effort to offer more exclusive products, which commands a higher profit per item and gives the chain more pricing power, allowing stores to cater to regional tastes.

Macy's, whose shoppers are considered by analysts to be less price-conscious than those of rivals J.C. Penney Co Inc <JCP.N> and Kohl's Corp <KSS.N>, reported net income of $131 million, or 30 cents a share, for the quarter that ended on April 30, nearly six times higher than the $23 million, or 5 cents, it reported a year earlier.

That easily topped the 18 cents Wall Street analysts on average were forecasting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The retailer also raised its fiscal 2011 profit forecast by 15 cents per share on both ends of the range and now expects to earn between $2.40 and $2.45.

Sales at stores open at least a year, or same-store sales, rose 5.4 percent, as Macy's previously reported, while overall sales rose 5.7 percent to $5.9 billion.

Gross margin, which reflects the profitability of the items Macy's sells, slid 0.3 percentage points to 39.1 percent as Macy's dealt with rising cotton costs. But the company has repeatedly said its clout with vendors was mitigating some of that risk.

Macy's, which operates about 850 department stores under its own and the Bloomingdale's names, also doubled its quarterly dividend to 10 cents per share.

Macy's shares rose $1.17 to $28.05 in premarket trading. The stock hit a yearly high of $26.88 last week.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba, editing by Maureen Bavdek)