May 11 (Reuters) - Department store operator Kohl's Corp reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by lower costs and a leaner inventory amid a tough retail environment in the United States.
Kohl's sales and comparable-store sales both fell for the fifth straight quarter and missed analysts estimates in the latest three-month period ended April 29.
Kohl's and rivals such as Macy's Inc and J.C. Penney Co Inc are struggling with declining mall traffic and tough online competition, and are trying to cope by cutting costs through store closures, selling or leasing their real estate and keeping inventory levels low.
Customer traffic at Kohl's stores improved in March and April after a weak February, Chief Executive Kevin Mansell said in a statement.
Kohl's net income soared to $66 million in the first quarter from $17 million a year earlier, when it recorded a $64 million charge related to impairments and store closures.
The company said merchandise inventories fell 2.3 percent, while selling and general expenses fell 3.3 percent in the latest quarter.
On a per share basis, Kohl's earned a profit of 39 cents, beating the average analyst estimate of 29 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Kohl's net sales dropped 3.2 percent to $3.84 billion, missing the average analyst estimate of $3.90 billion.
Sales at stores open more than a year fell 2.7 percent, much steeper than the 1.1 percent decline expected by analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix. (Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)