Dart Drug Corp. yesterday reported a fourth-quarter loss and a significant decline in profits for the year ended March 31, despite increased sales volume.

The retail drug chain said profits for the year totaled $1.3 million (71 cents a share) compared with $2 million ($1.08) in the previous fiscal period. Sales rose to $168 million from $142 million.

President Herbert H. Haft blamed sales climate "not as strong as anticipated during the second half" of the fiscal year, which led Dart to cut prices in order to maintain sales volume and its share of the area-market.

In the fourth quarter alone, operations were hurt by cold weather and Dart suffered a net loss of $78,000 on sales of $38 million vs. profits of $627,000 (34 cents a share) on sales of $33 million.

"We have since taken steps to increase (profit margins and to reduce operating expenses as a percentage of sales.

As a result, we believe that sales and earnings will improve during the current year," Haft said.

Based in Landover, Dart operates 71 stores and plans to open five or six discount drug stores including its first three units in the Richmond market.