Value-priced women's fashion retailer The Cato Corporation has seen its third quarter profit slump 72% on higher markdowns and lower sales, and reiterated its outlook for the fourth quarter.

Profit at the Charlotte, North Carolina based retailer fell to $0.8m, or $0.03 per share, from $2.9m, or $0.09 per share, in the same period last year.

Sales slipped 1% to $179.8m from $181.9m, and same-store sales decreased 2%.
The gross margin rate fell to 29.3% from 30.7% last year, mainly due to increased markdowns.

John Cato, chairman, president, and chief executive officer, said the results "were slightly above our expectations due to non-operational items and better than expected October sales due to a favourable weather comparison."

The company, which operates 1,305 Cato and It's Fashion stores expects fourth quarter earnings to range from a loss of $0.01 per share to earnings of $0.04 per share. Last year it posted a loss of $0.06 per share in the same period.

For the year, earnings per share are seen in the range of $1.01 to $1.06 versus $1.03 last year.