Fourth quarter profit at Jones Apparel Group Inc dropped 18 per cent on falling same-store sales.

The fashion retailer, whose brands include Jones New York and brands licensed from Polo Ralph Lauren Corp, on Wednesday said net income was $34.1 million, or 28 cents a share, for the quarter compared with $41.8 million, or 33 cents a share, a year earlier.

Total sales for the period rose 10 per cent to $1.08 billion from $980.1 million, while as same-store sales fell 4.4 per cent.

Peter Boneparth, president and chief executive officer, stated: "The fourth quarter was more challenging than we had anticipated.

"Comparable sales in our owned retail stores, excluding Barneys, were down 4.4 per cent in the period, which also impacted our overall performance."

The company posted full-year earnings of $301.8 million, or $2.39 per share, compared with $328.6 million, or $2.48 a share last year. Full-year sales rose to $4.59 billion from $4.34 billion.

Turning to 2005, Jones Apparel forecasts total revenues of $5.3 billion to $5.35 billion with an operating profit margin in a range of 11.4 per cent to 12.0 per cent.

The company reiterated its range of projected earnings per share from $2.75 to $2.90, an increase of 15-21 per cent over 2004.