Falling comparable store sales left cut-price clothing retailer Citi Trends with a third quarter net loss of US$687,000, up from a loss of $513,000 in the same period last year.

The company's total sales in the three months to 1 November were up 5.4% to $104.9m, but comparable store sales were down 4.2%.

Citi Trends said the comps decline had put the company's results under pressure.

"However, the company's efforts to improve its management of inventory levels led to fewer markdowns than in last year's third quarter which, together with an increased focus on controlling inventory shrinkage, led to a higher gross margin, substantially offsetting the effect of the comparable store sales decrease," said the company.

For the first nine months of the year, sales were up 12.8% to $341.6m, with comparable store sales inching up 0.8%. Citi Trends recorded a net profit of $7.3m, compared to $5.8m last year.

The company is now projecting fiscal 2008 earnings per diluted share of $0.95-1.05, based on a fourth quarter decline in comparable store sales of 3-6%.