By  on December 5, 2007

Women's apparel retailer Chico's FAS Inc. posted a 44 percent plunge in third-quarter earnings, hurt by sluggish same-store sales and higher markdowns.

For the three months ended Nov. 3, net income fell to $23.6 million, or 13 cents a diluted share, from $42.1 million, or 24 cents, in the year-ago period as sales rose 3.4 percent to $415.9 million from $402.2 million. Total same-store sales dropped 9.3 percent.

By division, Chico's comps declined 8 percent and White House|Black Market decreased 13 percent.

For the nine-month period, earnings slumped 26 percent to $109.4 million, or 63 cents a diluted share, from $148.5 million, or 84 cents, in last year's period. Sales climbed 9 percent to $1.31 billion from $1.2 billion last year.

"We are greatly disappointed with our performance to date. Numerous challenges continue to affect the entire retail sector. It now appears that, based on our November sales performance, our fourth-quarter earnings could approach the break-even level," said Scott A. Edmonds, chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Separately, the company posted a 13.7 percent drop in last month's comparable-store sales.

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