Executive Vice President And Chief Financial Officer at Ross Stores
Thank you, Barbara. As previously mentioned, our comparable store sales increased 9% for the quarter. This gain was driven by growth in the size of the average basket, partially offset by a decline in transactions. Fourth quarter operating margin of 9.8% was down 350 basis points from 13.3% in 2019, mainly due to ongoing expense headwinds. Cost of goods sold increased 210 basis points due to a combination of factors. Domestic freight rose 100 basis points and distribution costs increased 70 basis points, primarily due to the previously mentioned supply chain challenges in addition to higher wages. Merchandise margin declined 50 basis points due to higher ocean freight costs while buying expenses grew 20 basis points. Occupancy levered 30 basis points on higher sales volume.
SG& A for the period rose 140 basis points. Again, due to pressure from the holiday-related pay incentives plus higher wages and COVID costs. Total net COVID-related expenses for the quarter were approximately 35 basis points with a higher impact to SG&A than cost of goods sold. Now let's discuss our outlook for fiscal 2022. As Barbara noted in our press release, 2022 is a difficult year to predict for numerous reasons. We are up against last year's record government stimulus and the lifting of COVID restrictions that led to unprecedented consumer demand, which fueled extraordinary sales gains in the spring of 2021. In addition, we continue to face industry-wide supply chain headwinds as well as external risks from the effects of inflation both on consumer demand and on costs within our business.
As a result, comparable store sales for the 52 weeks ending January 28, 2023, are planned to be flat to up 3% versus a 13% gain in 2021. Earnings per share for 2022 are projected to be $4.71 to $5.12 compared to $4.87 in 2021. This reflects our expectation for sales and profitability to improve as we move through the year given the substantial cost increases we incurred in the fall of 2021. Our guidance assumptions for the 2022 year include: total sales are forecast to grow by 2% to 6%. We plan to return to our more normal opening cadence of 100 new locations in 2022, comprised of about 75 Ross and 25 dd's discounts. As usual, we expect to close about 10 older stores. Operating margin for the full year is planned to be in the 11.6% to 12.1% range, down slightly from 2021 due to deleveraging on lower same-store sales gains and again, ongoing expense headwinds, especially in the first half of 2022.
Net interest expense is estimated to be $70 million. Depreciation and amortization expense inclusive of stock-based amortization is forecast to be about $560 million for the year. The tax rate is projected to be about 24% to 25% and diluted shares outstanding are expected to be approximately $348 million. In addition, capital expenditures for 2022 are planned to be approximately $800 million. This outlay will fund further investments in our supply chain to support long-term growth and in technology to increase efficiencies throughout the business in order to maximize our prospects to capture profitable market share going forward. Let's now turn to our guidance for the first quarter.
In addition to the aforementioned stimulus benefits and strong pent-up demand early last year, we also faced larger headwinds from higher freight and wage costs early in the year. As a result, we are forecasting comparable store sales for the 13 weeks ending April 30th, 2022, to be down 2% to down 4% on top of a 13% gain for the 13 weeks ended May 1st, 2021. Earnings per share for the 2022 first quarter are projected to be $0.93 to $0.99 versus $1.34 in the prior year period. The operating statement assumptions that support our first quarter guidance includes the following; total sales are forecast to be down 2% to up 1% versus last year's first quarter.
We plan to add 30 new stores, consisting of 22 Ross and eight dd's discounts during the period. We project first quarter operating margin to be 10.2% to 10. 6% compared to 14.2% last year. The expected decline reflects the deleveraging effect from the negative same-store sales assumption as well as ongoing expense pressure from freight and wage costs early in the year. Net interest expense is estimated to be $19 million. Our tax rate is expected to be approximately 25% and diluted shares are forecast to be about $350 million.
Now, I will turn the call back to Barbara Rentler for closing comments.