Women's wear retailer AnnTaylor Stores Corporation has posted a 3.8% rise in third quarter profit, but lowered its outlook for the year after "significant softness" in October.

Net income at the New York based company rose to $40.8m from $39.3m, with earnings per share up 22.2% to $0.66, compared with $0.54 in the prior year.
For the three months to 3 November, net sales were up 6.1% to $600.9m from $566.3m, with new stores and growth in the Factory and internet businesses helping to offset a decline in comparable store sales.

Commenting on the results, Ann Taylor president and chief executive officer Kay Krill said: "Despite a difficult retail environment for much of the third quarter, we delivered solid margins and record earnings per share.

"Traffic trends were particularly soft in the month of October and, notwithstanding the improvement we experienced in early November with the onset of colder weather, we have tempered our outlook somewhat for growth in the fourth quarter."

By division, net sales at Ann Taylor fell 4.4% to $213.5m from $223.3m. At Loft, net sales increased 8.9% to $296.9m from $272m.

Comparable store sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2007 declined 0.4%, compared with an increase of 2.6% in the prior year, with same-store sales at Ann Taylor down 4.4% and slipping 0.3% at Loft.

The company said comps at both divisions were significantly impacted by the soft traffic environment and unseasonably warm weather during the quarter.

Net income for the first nine months of fiscal 2007 was $103.9m, or $1.61 per diluted share, compared with $121.5m, or $1.67 per diluted share, for the first nine months of fiscal 2006.

Net sales increased 3.7% to $1.8bn from $1.7bn in the nine month period, with sales at Ann Taylor falling 2.5% to $652.6m and at Loft increasing 2.3% to $881.1m.

The company, which operates 921 stores, has reduced its diluted earnings per share outlook for fiscal 2007 to the range of $2.05 to $2.15, compared with its previous guidance range of $2.15 to $2.25 per share.