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BENSALEM, PA-Charming Shoppes, the operator of the Catherines Plus Sizes, Fashion Bug and Lane Bryant chains, posted a 69% net-income jump in its Q3, to nearly $10.8 million, or 9 cents per share, over the same year-ago period. Executives attributed the boost to gross-margin improvements at the company.

Year-over-year same-store sales rose 3% during the quarter, which ended Oct. 29, while net sales climbed 22%, to $663.3 million. During the period Catherines Plus Sizes gained 4%, Lane Bryant was up 4% and Fashion Bug increased 1%.

Denim and intimate apparel was strong across all chains, said Dorrit J. Bern, chairman and chief executive officer of the company, during its earnings conference call. However, a denim line by entertainer Jessica Simpson that was to launch in Fashion Bug stores never got off the ground because the retailer didn’t get enough marketing assistance, Bern says. “That is a disappointment that we didn’t get to launch that great brand,” she said.

During the quarter the company opened 47 stores, relocated 57 and closed 22 units. Charming Shoppes ended its Q3 with 1,034 Fashion Bug stores, 745 Lane Bryant units, 467 Catherines Plus Sizes locations.

For its Q3, executives predict a same-store sales jump of 2% to 4% and earnings per share of 13 cents to 14 cents. Sales are forecast in the $775-million to $785-million range. The company will not undertake promotional discounts over the holidays like some competitors, Berns says. “We are in a very good inventory position.”

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