Leading discount apparel chain TJX Cos Inc on Wednesday posted flat fourth quarter income of $154.3 million on flat same-store sales in a weak retail environment.

The Massachusetts-based operator of around 1,700 stores in the US, Canada and Europe, said sales for the quarter climbed 9.4 per cent year-on-year to $3.51 billion.

For the full year, net sales jumped 12 per cent to $12bn from 2001 while net income rose 11 per cent to $578m from the year-ago period.

Full year sales at the core Marmaxx Group, the combination of TJ Maxx and Marshalls, rose seven per cent year-on-year to $9.5bn while same-store sales grew two per cent.

President and CEO, Edmond English, said: "With a weak economy and geopolitical concerns, which dampened consumer confidence, as well as a highly promotional retail landscape, 2002 was certainly a very difficult business environment.

"As we begin 2003, inventories are in great shape across all divisions, which allows us to continue to take advantage of the plentiful buying opportunities in the marketplace.

"While we face challenging comparisons to last year, especially in the first quarter, our value-oriented concept and our ability to react quickly to the changing dynamics of the competitive environment, as well as our very strong financial position, continue to serve us well and reaffirm my confidence in 2003 and beyond."