US clothing retailer Cato reported a 4.4% decline in second quarter net income as it faced a challenging consumer environment.

The company booked US$17.3m net income over the quarter ended 28 July against $18.1m in the prior year period.

Sales fell 1% to $234.1m, while same-store sales declined 4%. Gross margins improved slightly to 38.4% from 38%, which the group attributed to  better merchandise margins, although this was somewhat offset by higher store occupancy.

"As we have noted all year, same-store sales have been volatile and have been affected by our customers' uncertainty regarding the country's economic and political situation," said chairman, president and CEO John Cato.

"We expect this difficult environment to continue in the second half. We expect earnings per diluted share for second half of the year will be within our original guidance range of $.50 to $.59."