by Brian Lipton

RossCalifornia-based off-price retail chain Ross Stores, Inc. posted earnings per share for the fourth quarter ended January 30, 2016 of $.66, up 10% from the prior year, on net earnings that rose 6% to $264 million. Sales for the fiscal 2015 fourth quarter grew 7% to $3.251 billion, with comparable store sales up 4% versus a 6% gain last year.

For the fiscal year, earnings per share rose 14% to $2.51 on top of strong multi-year increases, while net earnings increased 10% to $1.021 billion. Sales for the 2015 fiscal year grew 8% to $11.940 billion, with comparable store sales up 4%.

As a result, for the 52-week fiscal year ending January 28, 2017, the Company is projecting same store sales to grow 1% to 2% and earnings per share of $2.59 to $2.71, up 3% to 8% from $2.51 in fiscal 2015.

“We are pleased with our sales and earnings results for the fourth quarter, which exceeded our expectations despite the highly promotional holiday selling environment and our most challenging sales comparisons from the prior year. These results were driven by the competitive values we offered on a wide assortment of name brand bargains and gifts throughout our stores,” said CEO Barbara Rentler. “As we enter 2016, we continue to face our own challenging multi-year comparisons in an increasingly uncertain and volatile macro-economic and retail environment. As a result, while we hope to do better, we believe it is prudent to maintain a somewhat cautious outlook when forecasting sales and earnings for the coming year.”

The company also announced that its Board of Directors also recently approved an increase in the quarterly cash dividend to $.135 per share, up 15% on top of an 18% increase last year. This higher quarterly dividend will be payable on March 31, 2016 to stockholders of record as of March 14, 2016.

In addition, Ross expects to complete the second half of its two-year $1.4 billion program for repurchasing of stock in fiscal 2016.