Mark Kohl’s Corp. as the latest casualty of the faltering economy.

The Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based retailer said fourth-quarter profits during the quarter fell 15 percent to $411.7 million, or $1.31 a diluted share. This compared with $484.6 million, or $1.48, a year earlier, when the quarter included one additional week.

Sales for the three months ended Feb. 2 inched up 0.7 percent to $5.49 billion from $5.45 billion. Comparable-store sales fell 4 percent.

“Despite a challenging year, which saw deep discounts across the industry, our [annual] gross margin increased over the prior year as a result of improved inventory management and increased penetration from our private and exclusive brands,” said Larry Montgomery, chairman and chief executive officer.

For the full year, Kohl’s earnings dipped 2.2 percent to $1.08 billion, or $3.39 a diluted share, as sales rose 5.6 percent to $16.47 billion. The gross margin rate expanded slightly to 36.5 percent from 36.4 percent a year earlier.

Kohl’s expects earnings of 50 cents to 54 cents a diluted share for the current quarter, and $3.15 to $3.50 for all of 2008. Comparable-store sales are expected to be flat to down 3 percent for the year.

For more, see Friday’s issue of WWD.

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