Casual clothing giant Fast Retailing Co Ltd on Thursday announced a steep fall in full year net profit as its flagship Uniqlo chain was hit by weak sales in a tough economic environment.

The company said in a statement its fiscal 2003 net profit slumped 24.8 per cent year-on-year to just under 21 billion yen ($191 million) as sales fell 10 per cent from last year to around 310 billion yen.

Uniqlo enjoyed phenomenal growth for many years but has suffered in the past couple of years from falling same-store sales amid fierce competition and weak consumer spending.

Earlier this year, the group revealed it would close 16 of its 21 UK stores due to their poor performance.

"In the fashion retailing sector, consumers tend to get more selective in prices and services, leaving us in a stiffer business environment," it said in a statement today.

Fast, which also has a grocery chain, added for the current fiscal year, it sees net profit up 57 per cent to about 33 billion yen on a eight per cent rise in sales to 335 billion yen.