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BIRMINGHAM, AL-Hibbett Sporting Goods Inc.’s third quarter earnings call resembled a victory party after a blowout game as the company’s executives received a number of congratulatory remarks from analysts.

“We had an outstanding third quarter,” crowed Hibbett CEO Mickey Newsome during the conference call. Earnings per share, net sales, comp-store sales and profit all increased during the quarter. The chain achieved a jump in profit of 33.6% to $8.2 million compared with $6.1 million for the same period last year. Net sales for the quarter increased 20% to $110.6 million compared with $92.1 million for the third quarter 2004, and earnings per diluted share increased 41.2% to 24 cents compared with diluted earnings per share of 17 cents in the prior year.

Comparable store sales increased 8.4% in the third quarter with nearly every category showing improvements. For example, apparel, footwear and team sports inventory posted double-digit comp increases, while fitness and license inventory were down slightly.

Hibbett opened 19 new stores and closed one store during the third quarter for a total of 526 stores in 22 states at the end of the quarter. According to Newsome, the chain plans to open 65 to 70 new stores in fiscal 2006.

The strong third quarter results compelled the chain to increase its fourth quarter earnings guidance to 27 cents to 29 cents per diluted share and a comparable store sales increase of 3% to 5%. Newsome said that the chain is on track to post another record year.

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