Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) shares got a small bump yesterday as the company continues to roll. The nation's largest office supply chain saw third-quarter revenues jump 13% year over year to $3.5 billion. Meanwhile, net income climbed 29% to $166 million, or 22% to $0.27 on a per share basis.

Driving North American retail same-store sales growth of 4% were stronger furniture sales, gains in business machines and services, and a healthy back-to-school season. And as North American delivery sales gained 6.7% to $971 million, total European operations grew an impressive 56% to $393 million, flipping to an operating profit. Notably, both retail and delivery operations in Europe were profitable.

Staples continues to benefit from its increasingly shopper-friendly stores. In addition, the company has moved to improve margins by focusing on higher-margin products such as ink cartridges, and by shifting marketing efforts toward Staples-branded products. As a result, Staples recorded operating margins of 7.66% -- an all-time high for the third quarter.

Fool writer Rick Aristotle Munarriz penned a thorough comparison of Staples and Office Depot (NYSE:ODP) -- its top competitor -- back in August. You might also want to keep an eye on Office Max (NYSE:OMX), which is soon to be acquired by Idaho-based Boise Cascade (NYSE:BCC) in what was a $1.2 billion cash-and-stock transaction at the time the deal was announced.

Looking ahead, Staples says it's comfortable with the consensus fourth-quarter earnings estimate of $0.41 per share. The company also says it expects earnings-per-share to grow another 20% in 2004. With these kinds of numbers, Staples' performance is hard to argue with.

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Jeff Hwang can be reached at