Francesca's Holdings results beat Street, shares rise

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(Global Markets) - Women's clothing retailer Francesca's Holdings Corp (FRAN.O) reported a quarterly profit that beat market expectations, helped by strong demand and higher margins, and forecast second-quarter numbers above analysts' estimates.

Shares of the company, which specializes in affordable clothing for customers in the 18-35 age group, rose 21 percent to $27.10 after the bell on Thursday.

Francesca's results were aided by its "broad and shallow merchandising strategy" that enabled it to respond quickly to changes in demand, CEO John De Meritt said in a statement.

The company has a strategy of carrying a broad selection of apparel and accessories but keeps limited quantities, reducing the risk of stocks growing old, and protecting margins by keeping inventory costs under check.

Affordable merchandise and flexible store formats found favor with customers during the quarter, fueling a 15.5 percent rise in the retailer's same-store sales. Overall sales surged 49 percent to $61.3 million.

First-quarter earnings more than doubled to $8.7 million, or 20 cents per share, from $3.9 million, or 10 cents per share, last year.

Analysts on average had expected earnings of 17 cents per share on revenue of $60.3 million, according to Thomson Global Markets I/B/E/S.

The company, which made its stock market debut in July, has now beaten analysts' profit estimates for three quarters in row.

Gross margin at Francesca's, which competes with chains such as Chico's Fas Inc (CHS.N), Ann Inc's (ANN.N) LOFT, and Urban Outfitters (URBN.O), increased to 53.1 percent from 52.4 percent in the year-ago period.

For the second quarter, Francesca's forecast earnings of 22 to 23 cents per share on sales of $69 million to $71 million.

Analysts were expecting the company to earn 22 cents per share on sales of $68.6 million.

(Reporting by Aditi Shrivastava in Bangalore; Editing by Sreejiraj Eluvangal)