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FRAMINGHAM, MA—A drippy first quarter was not what the TJX Cos. wanted, but company officials delivering results for the opening frame of its 2008 fiscal year tried to look beyond sluggish traffic at many of the off-price retailing chain’s units with a view that the numbers were not a complete washout.

“While we fell short of our comp sales goals again, mostly driven by cold spring weather in the Midwest, northeast and Canada, our first quarter results highlight the power of the off-price model and our ability to achieve bottom-line growth in a weaker sales environment,” CEO Carol Meyrowitz said in a conference call Tuesday. The company operates such brands as T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s, Homegoods, A.J. Wright and Bob’s Stores, with units in the US, Canada and in Europe, where a major push is planned for later this year.

TJX Cos. did post a 6% gain in consolidated net sales to $4.1 billion for the quarter ended April 28th when compared to a year ago, and consolidated comp store sales were actually up to 2%, although that did not meet company expectations. Earnings per share would have been up 9% to 37 cents versus the first quarter of FY2007, but TJX took a 3 cents per share charge related to its highly embarrassing “computer intrusions” that saw millions of customers have their personal financial information compromised. Noting a recent filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding the intrusion that provided extensive detail about the strategy to rectify the problem, TJX kept the subject off limits during the conference call.

TJX did open 25 new stores in the first quarter, and expanded the shoe departments at 91 Marshall’s as part of a program to achieve 100 such upgrades this year. A junior’s in-store concept is also being pursued, says Meyrowitz, along with other initiatives that she would not describe for proprietary reasons. TJX says its T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and A.J. Wright had an acceptable quarter, even though the latter was among the brands hurt by the volatile weather given a presence in the northeast and Midwest. Another brand, Bob’s Stores, also has a northeast focus and struggled in the opening quarter.

Since the weather improved in April, most divisions saw improvement, according to Meyrowitz, describing A.J. Wright as being “on fire” under the better conditions. The brand had its most successful grand opening ever in the first quarter, according to Meyrowitz, who added that TJX ix about to hire a new advertising company to further promote A.J. Wright. “We continue to believe that this business holds great potential as a meaningful growth vehicle for TJX,” Meyrowitz relayed.

Another silver lining in the clouds could be found in TJX expanding overseas. Its European group, T.K. Maxx, now has 211 stores and 6.4 million sf, and the company is going to begin selling product in Germany this fall. “We have our real estate and management teams in place and ready to go,” says Meyrowitz, adding that, “We believe that this country with a population of 82 million holds strong potential for our off-price concept.”

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