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Firing On All Pistons: Strong Fashion Sales Drive Saks, Penney’s

Saks Inc. and J.C. Penney put out strong performances in the first quarter, but concerns persist over high gas prices and economic uncertainty.

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Penney’s focus on fashionable merchandise assortments at moderate prices led to an 8.7 percent increase in sales to $4.03 billion from $3.71 billion last year. Comps, likewise, were a pleasant surprise, rising 9.5 percent at the department stores and 6.5 percent in the catalogue and Internet division.

While Penney’s said it enjoyed strong selling across almost all merchandise categories, private brands accounted disproportionately for the 90-basis-point increase in gross margin.

“On our private brands, the gross margin is higher than our company average,” said Vanessa Castagna, ceo for stores, catalogue and Internet, on a conference call.
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