Fourth quarter profit at Zumiez, the retailer of action sports apparel and footwear, has nearly halved after being hit by a slowdown in sales and higher discounting of its products.

For the three months to 31 January net income dropped 49.2% to $6.3m or $0.21 per share, down from a profit of $12.4m or $0.42 per share, the same period last year.

Total sales fell 0.9% to $125.5m from $126.6m, and comparable store sales tumbled 13.4%.

CEO Rick Brooks described the second half of the year as "incredibly challenging," but said controlling expenses and managing inventory helped the firm remain profitable for all four quarters of the year.

For fiscal 2008, net income fell 32% to $17.2m or $0.58 per share, versus $25.3m or $0.86 per share in the prior year.

Sales for the year increased 7.1% to $408.7m from $381.4m, but same-store sales were down 6.5%.

Looking ahead, the retailer said it plans to open 37 new stores in fiscal 2009. It currently operates 343 stores selling skateboarding, surfing and snowboarding gear.

For the first quarter it expects to post a net loss of $0.17 to $0.13 per share, with same-store sales falling in the mid to high teen range.