Clothing manufacturer and marketer Gildan Activewear Inc on Thursday announced a 2.6 per cent increase in sales to C$88.3 million from C$86.1m for the first quarter of fiscal 2001 compared to the same period last year.

The company, which makes apparel ranging from T-shirts and sweatshirts to golf shirts, said its net earnings for the quarter were C$2.8m, or US$0.10 per share on a fully diluted basis, compared with C$7.7m, or US$0.26 per share, last year.

The prior year net earnings are before reflecting a charge of C$2.9m after-tax, or US$0.10 per share, relating to the closure and relocation of the company's former US distribution centre in Miami.

In a statement, the company said the results were ahead of its guidance and analyst estimates due to slightly higher than planned sales and lower interest costs resulting from the lower levels of debt outstanding during the quarter.

Gildan's chairman and CEO, H Greg Chamandy, commented: "We believe that our first quarter has set us firmly on-track to re- establish our positive earnings momentum.

"On the marketing side, we have maintained our No. 1 market share position in 100 per cent cotton T-shirts. We continue to add to our distributor and customer base, and achieve further penetration in our newer product-lines."