Third quarter profit at women's clothing retailer Christopher & Banks Corporation has fallen on "sluggish customer demand."

Net income for the quarter ended 27 November 2004 was $7.8 million or $0.22 per diluted share, compared with $11.4m, or $0.29 per diluted share, in the same quarter last year.

Third-quarter net sales rose 12 per cent to $120.6m from $107.3m in 2003, with a same-store sales drop of 1 per cent. Third-quarter gross profit totalled $45.02m compared to 45.07m in 2003.

For the nine-month period net income fell to $23.5m, or $0.64 per diluted share, from $31.0m, or $0.81 per diluted share last year.

Net sales rose 10 per cent to $319.6m from $290.4m last year, while same-store sales declined 4 per cent. Nine-month gross profit totalled $125.7m compared to $126.6m in 2003.

Chairman and chief executive officer Bill Prange blamed the "disappointing" third-quarter sales results on cautious consumers.

He added: "We responded to the sluggish consumer demand by taking the markdowns necessary to keep our inventories on plan."

Minneapolis-based Christopher & Banks Corporation operates approximately 648 stores throughout the US under the Christopher & Banks, CJ Banks and Acorn names.