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EL SEGUNDO, CA-Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. cited a string of 43 consecutive quarters of increased same store sales as it reported Monday on results for the third quarter that ended Oct. 1, including the opening of five new stores. Big 5 has already opened two new stores this quarter and expects to open a total of nine during the quarter, according to Steven Miller, the company’s chairman, president and CEO. Big 5 ended the third quarter with 334 stores and expects to finish the year with 19 new store openings for a total of 343 by the end of the year, Miller said.

Miller and other Big 5 executives discussed the quarterly results in a conference call with financial analysts Monday, during which Miller commented that “the streak continues” with respect to the same store sales gains. Same store sales increased 3.8% in comparison to the third quarter of last year, Miller noted, pointing out that the quarterly comparison was even better in light of the strong same store performance in the third quarter of last year.

The store openings during the third quarter were in Fresno, CA; Kingman, AZ; Lakewood, WA; Minden, NV and Roswell NM. The two opened thus far this quarter are in Oroville, CA and Aurora, CO, with the additional seven scheduled as three in California plus one each in Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.

Miller credited the company’s new distribution center in Riverside, CA with improving operating efficiencies, noting that the center has now been open for two full quarters. He attributed the same store sales increase to a “combination of increased customer traffic and higher transaction size,” with the company’s three major merchandise lines of footwear, hard goods and apparel all producing comparable sales gains “within a reasonably tight range of each other.”

The Big 5 financial results for the quarter showed that net income for the third quarter increased to $7.8 million, or 34 cents per diluted share, from net income of $7.2 million, or 32 cents per share, for the third quarter of fiscal 2005. Results for the third quarter of this fiscal year included a pre-tax charge of $600,000, or about two cents per share, for the expensing of stock options, while last year’s results were pushed higher by a $1.8 million settlement that the company received in an eminent domain case.

Net sales increased $16.4 million, or 7.9%, to $223.3 million from net sales of $206.8 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2005.

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