Weak response to its 1997 merchandise contributed to Talbots' 90.9 percent drop in net income to $5.8 million for fiscal 1997 ended Jan. 31, from $63.6 million the previous year. Catalog sales were down 11.5 percent to $159.2 million, from $179.8 million for fiscal 1996. The company's net sales increased 3 percent to $1.1 billion from $1 billion the previous year. In the fourth quarter, the company posted a net loss of $10.3 million vs. income of $16.5 million in the fourth-quarter 1996. Catalog sales in the quarter decreased 9 percent to $46.1 million from $50.6 million for the same period last year. Net sales rose 3 percent to $312.2 million from $303 million for the fourth quarter last year. "As previously announced, our performance was affected by lower levels of customer traffic and weak response to our merchandise, which did not provide our core customer with enough of the classic sportswear and styling that she has depended on from Talbots," said Arnold B. Zetcher, president and CEO.
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