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Ann Taylor (ANN) announced it badly missed Wall Street's same-store sales estimates for January and lowered its earnings estimate for the fourth quarter due to a high emphasis on occasion wear and not enough wear-to-work styles.

The company posted a same-store sales decline of 14.3% for January. Analysts polled by

First Call/Thomson Financial

were expecting a drop-off of 3.9% in the month.

Sales for the month, a five-week period this year, totaled $82.98 million, up about 25.4% from the $66.19 million in the four-week period last year. Without the extra week, sales increased by 1.2% to $67 million.

Sales for the fourth quarter increased 15.7%, to $343.58 million, including an extra week, from the $297.08 million in the year-ago period. Without the extra week, sales increased 10.3% to $327.61 million. Comparable store-sales for the quarter, excluding the last week of the period, fell 4.3%.

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"Our merchandise assortments for the holiday period overemphasized contemporary, fashion-forward styling, and too high a percentage of our assortment featured occasion wear," the company said in a statement. "As we said earlier in the season, we believe our business would have benefited from a deeper investment in our more classic wear-to-work styles."

Ann Taylor also warned its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings would fall well below lowered expectations. The company said it now expects to earn 18 cents a diluted share, excluding a one-time charge relating to severance obligations to its former president.

Seventeen analysts polled by First Call were expecting earnings of 38 cents. For fiscal 2001, the company is expecting to earn between $2.24 and $2.28 a share. Analysts are expecting the company to earn $2.16 a share.

The company said it expects same-store sales to be "in the low-single-digit negative to low-single-digit positive range" for the Spring season. Ann Taylor is projecting positive comparable store sales in the "low- to mid-single digits" in the Fall.

Shares of the retailer were down $1.19, or 4.3%, to $26.51 in recent

New York Stock Exchange