CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) ¿ Women's apparel retailer Cato Corp. said Thursday its same-store sales fell 6 percent in March due to a late Easter.

Consumers traditionally boost shopping ahead of the holiday, but it falls in April this year instead of March. That switch likely will boost April's results, Cato said.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, are a key measure of retailer performance, because they measure growth at existing stores rather than from newly opened ones.

Cato reaffirmed its first-quarter earnings expectation of 49 cents to 54 cents per share.

The company owns the Cato and It's Fashion line of clothing stores. During the five-week period ended April 5, the company opened five stores and closed two stores.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Cato operates 1,285 stores in 31 states.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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