Retailer Brown Shoe Co Inc on Wednesday posted a 32 per cent drop in quarterly earnings, hurt by weaker results from its children's unit and its Bass wholesale business.

St. Louis-based Brown Shoe said it earned $7.8 million, or 41 cents a share, for second quarter ended 31 July, down from $11.6 million, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier.

Consolidated net sales for the second quarter were $458.65m versus $458.38m in last year's second quarter.

For the first half of fiscal 2004, net earnings were $16.38m, down from $20.55m the year before.

Brown Shoe, which operates the Famous Footwear and Naturalizer chains, said sales increased 5.0 per cent during the six months to $950.48m from $904.82m last year.

Chairman and CEO Ron Fromm said: "Factors that negatively impacted the quarter included weakness within our children's and Bass wholesale segments; Bass transition costs - which are now complete; and weakness in our Naturalizer Retail segment.

"Limited availability of common carrier trucks at the close of our second quarter impacted shipping and further caused us to fall short of our expectations.

"On a positive note, Famous Footwear achieved its earnings plan for the quarter, but slightly lagged last year due to a calendar shift in tax-free days and a later start to back-to-school," Fromm said.