California-based designer, manufacturer and marketer of women's clothing, St. John Knits International Inc, on Tuesday posted a 13.1 per cent fall in first quarter sales to $87.9 million, compared to the year-ago period.

The company reported a 34.5 per cent slide in operating income to $15.6m, while net income for the period was $5.8m, or $0.70 per share, versus net income of $9.6m, or $1.30 per share, in the year-ago quarter.

In a statement it said sales of the Knit product line decreased 20.7 per cent but that sales of the Sport product line increased 32.7 per cent, with the Knit and Sport product lines accounting for 71.7 per cent and 17.8 per cent, respectively, of total net sales.

Commenting on the results, Bob Gray, chairman and chief executive officer, said although sales were down he was "satisfied with the results given the weak retail environment that has existed since the middle of calendar year 2001 and that first quarter sales for fiscal 2001 were very strong".

He added the company will open five new full-price boutiques in fiscal 2002 which would take the number of full-price outlets in its stable to 31.