Operator: Good morning, and welcome to the Ross Stores Second Quarter 2011 Earnings Release Conference Call. The call will begin with prepared comments by management, followed by a question-and-answer session. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise.
Before we get started on behalf of Ross Stores, I would like to note that the comments made on this call will contain forward-looking statements regarding expectations about future growth and financial results, including sales and earnings forecasts, and other matters that are based on the Company's current forecast of aspects of its future business. These forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from historical performance or current expectations. Risk factors are included in today’s press release and the Company's fiscal 2010 Form 10-K and 2011 Form 10-Q, and 8-Ks on file with the SEC.
Now, I would like to turn the call over to Michael Balmuth, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Michael Balmuth - VC and CEO: Good morning. Thank you for joining us today. Also on our call are Norman Ferber, Chairman of the Board; Michael O'Sullivan, President and Chief Operating Officer; Gary Cribb, Executive Vice President, Stores and Loss Prevention; John Call, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; and Bobbi Chaville, Senior Director of Investor Relations.
We'll begin with a brief review of our second quarter performance, followed by our outlook for the remainder of the year. Afterwards, we'll be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
We are pleased with our better than expected performance for both the second quarter and first six months of 2011. Our ability to increase the percentage of fresh name-brand bargains our customers see, while also strictly controlling inventories and expenses, has enabled us to capitalize on our favorable position as a value retailer.
Second quarter earnings per share grew to $1.28, up from $1.07 for the same period last year. These results represent a 20% increase on top of exceptional gains of 30% and 52% in the second quarter of 2010 and 2009, respectively. Net earnings for the current year quarter grew 15% to $148.3 million, up from $129.3 million last year.
Second quarter 2011 sales increased 9% to $2.089 billion, with comparable store sales up 5% on top of a 4% gain in the prior year.
For the six months ended July 30, 2011 earnings per share were $2.76, up from $2.24 in the first half of 2010. These results represent a 23% increase on top of outstanding earnings per share growth of 45% and 37% for the first half of 2010 and 2009, respectively. Net earnings for the first six months rose 18% to $321.2 million, up from $271.6 million last year. Sales for the first six months of 2011 increased 8% to $4.164 billion, with comparable store sales up 4%, which is on top of robust 7% growth for the first six months of 2010.
Merchandising geographic trends were broad based in the second quarter. Dresses was the top performing merchandise category with double-digit percentage gains in same-store sales, while accessories and shoes saw high single-digit increases. Florida and Texas remained the strongest regions, posting high single to low double-digit gains in comparable store sales.