Off-price retail group The TJX Companies is aiming to cut costs by US$150m this year after fourth quarter profit fell 16.6% to $251m.

The group's fourth quarter sales were flat at $5.4bn, with comparable store sales falling 2%.

Net earnings per diluted share were $0.58, compared to $0.67 last year.

For the full year, sales were up 4% to $19bn, with comparable store sales up 1%.

Net income was $915m, or $2.08 per share, compared to last year's figures of $782.4m and $1.68 respectively.

"Since the Fall, given the extraordinary challenges that the economy has presented, we have held our own, with customer traffic being up," said TJX president and CEO Carol Meyrowitz.

"We believe that our excellent values, as well as our business model, which is one of the most flexible in the world, and our very strong financial position, lie at the root of our ability to weather challenging times, today as they have in past recessions."

Meyrowitz signalled that the company would be managed conservatively in 2009, keeping inventories lean and controlling costs "aggressively".

The company has already said it will cut costs by $150m this year through staff non-replacement and pay restraint.

Declining to offer guidance for the full year, TJX said the first half of fiscal 2010 was expected to be more challenging than the second.

The company is forecasting first quarter earnings per share of $0.32-0.38, compared to $0.44 last year, and based on a comparable store sales decline of 2-4%.