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PLEASANTON, CA-Having just reported record earnings for the year and quarter, Ross Stores, Inc. still has the potential to be at least a 1,200-store chain, executives said at the company’s fourth-quarter conference call.

Plans call for a 5% increase in square footage this year, and the company is still formulating its 2010 forecast, said Michael O’Sullivan, executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

“We expect to continue to grow, though plans to enter new markets are probably a couple of years away,” O’Sullivan said.

In the first quarter, Ross opened 19 new stores. Last year, the company opened 66 net new stores.

In addition, the company announced that it expects its dd’s Discounts division to achieve profitability, probably at the 80-store level. It currently has 53 units.

Sales for the quarter were $1.7 billion, up 5% from the same period the previous year. Comparable-store sales declined 1%. Net earnings were a record $97.4 million, up from $94.5 million the prior year.

For the year, sales for the 2008 fiscal year increased 9% from 2007 levels to $6.5 billion. Comparable-store sales rose 2% over the prior year. Net earnings were a record $305.4 million, compared with from $261.1 million in 2007.

“We were able to achieve strong sales and earnings growth despite the toughest macroeconomic environment on record,” said John Call, CEO.

Ross Stores operates 904 Ross Dress for Less stores and 53 dd’s Discounts locations.

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