Apparel retail group Reitmans (Canada) saw first quarter profits plummet by nearly 60% as recession-hit consumers cut back on discretionary spending.

The Montreal-based company's profits for the three months to 2 May were down 57.7% to CAD7.8m (US$7m), while EBITDA slumped 35.3% to CAD25.5m.

Sales edged up 1.5% to CAD231.7m, but same store sales were down 0.8% over the same period.

"The continuing recession resulted in softer sales due to consumers cutting back on discretionary spending," said Reitmans.

"High unemployment rates in a number of key markets, most notably Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, impacted sales as households reduced spending on apparel due to credit and personal liquidity constraints."

However, Reitmans said sales in May had risen 3.9%, with same store sales moving up 2.5%.