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Cato profits down slightly

Second-quarter profits declined 3.3 percent, to $12.1 million, at Charlotte-based women's discount clothing chain Cato, the company reported today.

That's down from a net income of $12.5 million during the same period – the three months ending the first week of August – last year.

Overall sales rose to $231 million, a 5 percent increase over last year. However, general internal costs were higher in the third quarter this year then they were in 2007.

Sales at stores open a year or more were up 2 percent, in part due to federal economic stimulus checks. Cato also benefited from selling more regularly priced merchandise. However, the company expects sames-store sales to be down 3 percent to flat in the rest of the year.

“We expect the remainder of the year to be difficult as our customer continues to face difficult economic conditions,” chairman, president and CEO John Cato said in a news release.

Cato closed 47 underperforming stores during the quarter, and as of August 2 had 1,287 stores in 31 states, down from 1,306 last year.