UPDATE 3-Chico's bets on new styles to drive more full-price selling
* Q1 EPS $0.32 vs est. $0.30
* Q1 rev $650.8 mln vs est. $629.5 mln
* Sees FY12 sales $2.50-$2.60 bln vs est. $2.53 bln
* Shares rise 6 pct
By Ranjita Ganesan
May 16 (Reuters) - Chico's FAS Inc is wooing shoppers with new styles and designs, allowing the women's apparel retailer to sell more of its merchandise at full price and cut back on promotions that are crimping profits at rivals.
Shares of the company, which posted better-than-expected quarterly results, rose as much as 6 percent to $15.52 on Wednesday.
"Because of the strength of our product line we have been able to actually reduce promotions and concentrate on full-price sales in virtually all of our brands," CEO David Dyer said on a conference call with analysts.
The company, which owns brands like White House/Black Market, Soma Intimates and Boston Proper in addition to its namesake chain, has been outperforming rivals like Christopher & Banks Corp and Coldwater Creek Inc that depend on markdowns for sales.
Chico's, which recently stepped up store growth of its pricier White House/Black Market chain, also said comparable-store sales have risen 6.1 percent so far in the second quarter.
"Chico's is demonstrating near-term sales momentum as their current floorset is resonating with customers," Piper Jaffray analyst Neely Tamminga said, and raised her price target on the stock by a dollar to $15.
The retailer said it would discount in the second quarter, but does not plan on offering wholesale promotions.
Founded in 1983 as a small boutique selling Mexican folk art and cotton sweaters on Sanibel Island in Florida, Chico's has since started selling clothing, accessories and gift items in more than 1,280 stores.
First-quarter net income rose to $53.6 million, or 32 cents per share, from $45.9 million, or 26 cents per share, last year.
Analysts on average had expected earnings of 30 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Sales rose about 21 percent to $650.8 million, well ahead of the $629.5 million analysts had expected.
Chico's first-quarter performance was powered by a 9.6 percent growth in same-store sales and an 8 percent increase in square footage, with the addition of 33 new stores.
For fiscal 2012, the company expects sales of $2.50 to $2.60 billion, while analysts were expecting $2.53 billion.
Gross margins are expected to decline about half a percentage point for the whole of this year, the company said.
Shares of the Fort Myers, Florida-based company have risen more than 30 percent this year.
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