CHICAGO -- Customers returned to Home Depot Inc. in its fiscal first quarter, boosting the home improvement super store chain's profit and raising a key performance measure for the first time since 2005, the company said Tuesday.
The results come after years of efforts to improve customer service at Home Depot, tweak its merchandise assortment and win back customers who fled for competitors.
"Are we back? We still have lots of opportunities," CFO Carol Tome told The Associated Press during an interview. "But are we better? We're much better."
So much better that revenue in U.S. stores open at least a year rose 3.3 percent. It was the first gain since 2005's fourth quarter for that figure, considered key for retailers because it isn't skewed by results from stores that opened or closed during the year.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based chain's number of individual transactions climbed 4.2 percent -- more than in any quarter since late 2005.
"We've got more footsteps and more people coming into the stores," Tome said. "And that's an indication that consumers are spending on their homes."
Home Depot earned $725 million, or 43 cents per share, for the three-month period that ended May 2. That compares with $514 million, or 30 cents per share, during the same period last year.
Adjusted profit was 45 cents per share, which excludes a one-time, $33 million cost related to extending the company's guarantee of a third-party loan.
Revenue rose 4.3 percent to $16.86 billion, from $16.18 billion, as shoppers increased their spending on springtime gardening and bought more items for basic home improvement projects like paint.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who typically exclude one-time items, expected profit of 40 cents per share on revenue of $16.37 billion.
Increased customer spending -- fueled in part by government stimulus programs such as tax credits for home purchases and rebates for energy-efficient products -- led Home Depot to boost its 2010 outlook.
It now expects to earn $1.88 per share, up from a prior prediction of $1.79 per share. It anticipates its revenue will climb about 3.5 percent. The retailer's previous forecast was for an approximately 2.5 percent increase.
Wall Street analysts forecast net income of $1.87 per share on revenue of $68.14 billion for the year.
On Monday rival Lowe's Cos. reported a 2.7 percent increase in its first-quarter net income and a 4.7 percent rise in revenue to $12.39 billion. Like Home Depot, Lowe's lifted its full-year outlook, but its guidance fell short of analysts' estimates.
Home Depot shares rose as much as 2 percent to $36.30 in trading Tuesday. By midday, they were down 63 cents, or 1.8 percent, trading at $34.96.
AP Retail Writer Michelle Chapman contributed to this report from New York.