Specialty fashion retailer The Wet Seal Inc today warned that a slowdown in customer spending over the past two weeks could push third quarter same-store sales into the mid to high single digit negative range.

"Given the shortfall in sales and an increase in markdowns and fixed costs as a percentage of sales, earnings for the third quarter would be in the range of $0.00 to $0.05 per share," the company said in a statement.

It added that sales are being negatively affected by a weak sweater and casual bottoms business, offset by continued strong customer acceptance of the company's accessory offerings.

If the current comparable store sales trends continue, fourth quarter earnings would be below the $0.49 per share earned in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2001.

If the company's comparable store sales continue to be negative in the fourth quarter, the number of new store openings in fiscal 2003 will be reduced to between 75 and 100 stores it said.