Clothing maker Hartmarx Corp on Monday revealed it swung to a first quarter profit of $1.1 million from a year-ago loss of $1.1m despite a fall in sales to $131.8m from $139.4m.

The Chicago-based firm, which produces business, casual and golf apparel under its own brands including Hart Schaffner & Marx, Hickey-Freeman, Palm Beach and Coppley, said it benefited from improved gross margins and lower expenses and interest costs.

President and CEO, Homi Patel, commented: "We are pleased that we achieved first quarter profitability in a very difficult retail environment.

"We anticipate that global uncertainties will continue to impact the retail environment negatively and that conditions will remain very challenging for the second quarter ending May 31, historically our weakest quarter.

"Nonetheless, we are focused on those areas we have control over and continue to anticipate improved operating margins and lower interest costs in every quarter. We believe that we are on track to report a significant earnings improvement for the full year 2003."