David Jones, Australia’s No.2 department store chain, said second-quarter like-for-like sales fell 2.4 per cent and it expects current challenging retail conditions to continue through calendar 2012. While still down on a year earlier, sales had improved in December and January from previous month and David Jones reaffirmed guidance for a fall in first-half profit of between 15 and 20 per cent from a year earlier “While our sales performance this quarter reflects the continuing challenging retail environment, there has been improvement,” David Jones Chief Executive Paul Zahra said. “Trading conditions continue to reflect the uncertainty in the macro-economic environment with conservative consumer shopping continuing and no material signs that this is changing,” he said. The non-mining sectors of Australia’s economy are struggling under a strong currency, relatively high interest rates, falling home and share values and indebted consumers. Australia’s biggest department store chain, Myer Holdings, has said its annual net profit was likely to fall as much as 10 per cent. David Jones said total second quarter sales, including new stores, fell 3.1 per cent to A$598.5 million ($636.6 million), compared with A$617.6 million a year earlier.