AnnTaylor ( ANN) said its full-year profit will probably fall short of its forecast because of weak sales in December.

Comparable-store sales declined 5.3% last month, while total sales for the five-week period ended Dec. 30 were up 2.4% to $274.2 million.

"December was clearly our most challenging month of the year," the company said Thursday. "Our results ... were soft in the cold weather categories of sweaters, outerwear and cold weather accessories, compared to strong demand for these products in 2005. Our gifting business, which is largely focused on sweaters, outerwear and accessories, was slower than we have historically experienced and was below expectations for the holiday period."

AnnTaylor said its fiscal-year earnings will likely be "somewhat below" its previous guidance of $2.07 to $2.12 a share. Nevertheless, given the strength of the first three quarters, the company continues to expect to report a record year.

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