Maidenform Brands Inc. slipped to a net loss in the fourth quarter, capping a tough year for the company, which sought to counter “depressed results” with cost costs.


Net losses for the quarter totaled $3.1 million, or 13 cents a diluted share, and compared with earnings of $6.7 million, or 29 cents, a year earlier. Excluding special items related to a lawsuit settlement, the closure of a product line and workforce reductions, the company broke even on a per share basis while analysts were looking for a 2 cent profit. Sales for the three months ended Dec. 31 rose 5 percent to $124.5 million from $118.6 million. Wholesale sales to mass merchants rose 16.3 percent to $36.3 million and the firm’s retail sales increased 9.7 percent to $14.7 million.


For the year, Maidenform’s net earnings slipped 26.7 percent to $33.2 million as sales gained 8.9 percent to $606.3 million.


“Near-term gross margin pressures yielded depressed results for 2011 overall,” said Maurice S. Reznik, chief executive officer. “We have taken actions to address these issues, including cost reductions and improvements to our supply chain that we expect will yield meaningful acceleration in margins and profits, particularly in the back half of 2012 and beyond.”


The company projected earnings of $1.75 to $1.85 a share this year — a target below the $1.95 Wall Street anticipated. Shares of Maidenform slipped 0.2 percent to $20.51 in early trading today.