Apparel giant Nautica Enterprises Inc on Wednesday posted a welcome 15.5 per cent jump in second quarter net profit to $10.4 million from $8.9m in the year-ago period.

The New York-based company, whose brands include Earl Jean and John Varvatos, said although sales fell to $182.2m from $199.3m its quarterly results were boosted by an accounting change and improved gross margins.

But it warned its Rockefeller Plaza store, which "serves as an effective testing ground for new products", is continuing to perform poorly and as a result sees a write-down of $6m to $6.5m in the third quarter.

Nautica chairman, president and CEO, Harvey Sanders, said: "We are pleased to report that our financial results for the second quarter came in at the high-end of our previously announced expectations.

"Driving this performance was an improvement in gross margin, which was 43.9 per cent versus 41.7 per cent in the prior year period. This was largely attributable to better sourcing and product placement in our Nautica Men's Jeans, Nautica Furnishings and Nautica Children's businesses."

He added: "Furthermore, inventory management improved across all businesses, especially in our Nautica Retail outlet division where gross margin improved 480 basis points."

Nautica said for fiscal 2003 it expects to report earnings per share of 90-91 cents, excluding one-time items, which is at the low-end of its previously announced guidance for the year.