Circuit City Stores Inc. said yesterday that its third-quarter earnings and sales rose strongly despite the stock market collapse, an earthquake in California and higher-than-expected recruiting and advertising costs.

"The third quarter was challenging for retailers in general," said Richard Sharp, president of the Richmond electronics retailing chain. "Circuit City was no exception. We experienced a major earthquake in Los Angeles in early October and felt the aftershocks of recent stock market turmoil."

The opening of 15 new stores during the quarter, including two "super stores" in the Washington area and eight stores around San Francisco, helped bolster the third-quarter results, Circuit City said, although high costs of staffing the San Francisco stores and greater-than-expected advertising costs cut into earnings.

The company said it earned $8.9 million (40 cents a share) in the quarter that ended Nov. 30, up 25 percent from $7.1 million (32 cents) a year ago. Sales rose 32 percent, to $353.8 million, from $267.4 million.

For the first nine months of the year, Circuit City's profits rose 47 percent, to $26.7 million, from $18.1 million. Sales for the three quarters rose 36 percent, to $889.5 million from $654.1 million.