Increased competition, an oversupply of maternity wear and increasingly big markdowns have been blamed by maternity wear retailer Mothers Work Inc for disappointing fourth quarter and full year results.

Net loss for the fourth quarter widened to $3.6m, or $0.70 per common share, compared to $1.6m, or $0.29 per common share in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2003.

Fourth-quarter net sales dropped 1.1 per cent to $121.0m from $122.4m in the same quarter last year. Same-store sales decreased 8.3 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Net income for the fiscal year ended 30 September 2004 totalled $5.9 million, or $1.07 per common share, versus net income of $14.0m, or $2.47 per common share, in 2003

Full-year net sales rose 5.2 per cent to $518.1m from $492.4m in the same year in fiscal 2003. Same-store sales dropped 4.9 per cent during the year.

Gross profit for 2004 totalled $278m compared to $267.3 in 2003.

Mothers Work Inc operates 1,006 retail locations under the Motherhood Maternity, Mimi Maternity and A Pea in the Pod brands.