Fourth quarter profit at footwear and accessories retailer Steven Madden Ltd has more than halved, with the company blaming "soft consumer spending and an absence of major fashion footwear trends."

For the three months to 31 December 2007, net income slumped 53.2% to $4.7m, or $0.23 per diluted share, from $10.0m, or $0.45 per diluted share, in the same period last year.

Fourth quarter net sales dropped 10% to $102.7m from $114.1m, reflecting the "weak economic environment."

Gross margin declined to 37.9% from 40.8%, with declines in both the wholesale and retail divisions.

Revenues from the wholesale business fell 17.1% to $63.5m, with higher markdowns pushing gross margin down to 26.8% from 31.5%.

Sales from new stores helped retail revenues up 4.6% to $39.3m from $37.5m, but same store sales were down 0.1%. Increased promotions meant retail gross margin fell to 55.9% from 59.9%.

"Our performance for the fourth quarter and full year reflects soft consumer spending, which worsened during the holiday season, as well as the continued absence of major fashion footwear trends," said Jamieson Karson, chairman and chief executive officer.

Excluding one-time items, profit for the full year fell 27.4% to $33.6m, or $1.58 per share, compared to $46.3m, or $2.09 per diluted share, in fiscal 2006.

Net sales for the year were down 9.3% to $431.1m from $475.2m.

The company opened seven stores and closed two stores during 2007, ending the year with 101 retail locations.

In its outlook for fiscal 2008, the company expects sales to be flat to an increase of 2% compared to fiscal 2007, and earnings per share of between $1.45 and $1.55.

Separately, the company said it is to repurchase up to 2.6m shares of its common stock, which represents around 12.9% of its outstanding shares.