Weak Christmas traffic in Charming Shoppes stores reduced margins for the specialist retailer, leading to a revision of its fourth quarter projections.

The company, which specialises in plus sizes for women, saw net sales for the nine-week period ended 5 January fall 5% to US$622.7m, with comparable store sales down 7%.

Net sales for the 48 weeks ended 5 January were $2.846bn, down from $2.851bn the year before. Comparable store sales fell 4%.

That prompted Charming Shoppes to revise its fourth quarter earnings guidance, projecting a loss per share of $0.17-0.20 on net sales of $790-795m - compared to its previous projected loss of $0.06-0.08.

Full-year projections were also revised, with the company now predicting diluted EPS of $0.12-0.15 on net sales of $3.01-3.02bn. Previously, it had projected diluted EPS at $0.24-0.26.

"Throughout the holiday season, we continued to be challenged by decreases in traffic levels to the stores, compounded by lacklustre consumer spending," explained Dorrit Bern, chairman, CEO and president of Charming Shoppes.

"In response, in order to meet our sales and inventory plans during the holiday selling period, we took more aggressive promotional markdowns to drive sales of seasonal merchandise."

Bern said the company was determined to improve its performance in 2008, despite the difficult trading environment.

"Our management team and I are entirely focused on improving our performance during this difficult cycle," she added.