MATTHEWS, N.C. — Saying its customers were “severely strapped for cash,” Family Dollar Stores here on Tuesday said sales were lower than expected and net income fell by 4.1% during its fiscal second quarter, which ended Dec. 1. The results sparked the retailer to reduce its annual earnings forecast while announcing plans to step up food and consumable presentations at its stores this spring with the intention of affecting financial improvements in the second half of 2008. “When we first outlined our expectations for fiscal 2008 a few months ago, we suggested that the near-term environment for the low-income consumer would be challenging,” Howard R. Levine, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a conference call. “But even our forecast didn’t adequately anticipate the extent of the economic pressure on our customer.” Sales of $1.6 billion increased by 5.2%, but same-store sales fell by 1%. Net earnings fell to $51.9 million from $54.1 million in the same period a year ago.
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