St-Louis based May Department Stores Co has posted an 83 per cent decrease in third-quarter earnings due to costs linked to its purchase of the Marshall Field's chain and flagging sales in a number of its apparel divisions.

The company made $8 million, or 2 cents a share, in the period ended 30 October, compared to the $47m, or 15 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Third-quarter sales increased 17 per cent to $3.48 billion from $2.98bn, with a same-store sales decrease of 3.4 per cent.

May said that the incorporation of the Marshall Field's stores business, which it bought from Target Corp this summer, caused a decrease of 6 cents per share for the quarter.

For the first nine months, May recorded earnings of $185m, or 59 cents per share, compared to earnings of $9m, or a loss of 1 cent per share, a year ago.

Sales for the first nine months increased 6.2 per cent to $9.4bn from $8.85 billion a year ago, whilst same-store sales dropped 1.3 percent.

May operates 500 department stores including Famous-Barr, Filene's, Foley's, Hecht's, Kaufmann's, Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's.