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Cato revenue measure drops 11 percent

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Specialty retailer Cato Corp. said Thursday that a key revenue measure plunged 11 percent at its stores during March as cold weather kept shoppers away and the timing of Easter on the calendar.

The company said overall revenue for the five weeks that ended April 6 was $105.6 million, up 2 percent from the same period a year earlier.

The measurement, revenue at stores open at least a year, is considered important in the retail business because it eliminates the impact of new or closed stores.

"March sales continued to be difficult," said Chairman, President and CEO John Cato. "The Easter selling season, which is historically our strongest quarter, continued to see a declining trend in sales."

The company said March sales were hurt by the fact that Easter fell earlier on the calendar than last year. It said it expects a corresponding benefit when it reports April sales next month, and that looking at its two-month combined results will be the best way to measure its sales trend.

Cato runs clothing and accessories stores under the Cato, Versona and It's Fashion names. It said it opened one store in Dallas during the month and closed two. As of April 6, it operated 1,305 stores in 31 states, up from 1,292 stores in 31 states as of March 31, 2012.