First quarter profit at sleepwear and loungewear maker Nitches Inc has more than halved, with the company blaming lower gross margins amid a weakening retail environment.

For the three months to 30 November, the San Diego, California based firm said net income fell 62.4% to $0. 458m, from $1.217m in the prior year.

First quarter earnings per share fell to $.08 from $.25 per share due to "pricing pressures" from retailers.

Net sales for the quarter fell 6.5% to $33.1m from $35.4m as lower in shipments of autumn men's sportswear products to Wal-Mart were only partially offset by higher shipments of women's sleepwear and private label apparel.
The company said highlights include an order backlog of $35.7m versus $26.4m at the same time last year, due for delivery by May.

A higher volume of orders for men's sportswear includes an increase in orders for spring merchandise from Wal-Mart.

The company said it has also had a positive retailer response to a new Paula Deen dinnerware line shipping in March 2008.