Rocky Shoes & Boots Inc (Nasdaq: RCKY), the manufacturer of premium quality rugged outdoor, occupational and casual footwear, has reported record first quarter net sales. Net losses are substantially smaller than a year ago due to a 24 per cent reduction in selling, general and administrative expenses.

The first quarter net loss was $906,094 or $0.20 per diluted share versus a net loss of $1,615,569 or $0.36 per diluted share for the same period last year.

Net sales for first quarter 2001 increased to $15.7 million from $15.1 million a year ago. The 3.6 per cent increase in net sales was attributable to the rugged outdoor footwear category, especially in the Wild Wolf by ROCKY line of boots. Sales of occupational footwear improved during first quarter 2001 versus a year ago, while casual footwear sales declined due to the elimination of the casual sales force and the company's reduced emphasis on this category.

Gross margin was $3.2 million or 20.2 per cent of net sales for first quarter 2001 versus $3.5 million or 23.3 per cent the prior year.

The temporary reduction in gross margin is specifically due to start-up costs associated with the US Government military boot contract, which began sooner than expected and with higher initial orders. In addition, gross margin was impacted by management's decision to lower production during first quarter 2001 and to manufacture more footwear closer to planned deliveries for the fall and winter seasons this year.

Mike Brooks, chairman and chief executive officer, commented: "We are not pleased with the net loss for first quarter 2001. We are working diligently to increase sales, improve gross margin, and continue to seek additional operating efficiencies. While the economic outlook remains uncertain, our orders for the fall and winter seasons are well ahead of last year including the portion which is not subject to cancellation."