Leading off-price clothing and footwear retailer Stein Mart Inc on Thursday posted a slump in first quarter net profit as it was hurt by falling sales and markdowns.

The Florida-based operator of 270 stores posted net income of $1.5 million, or four cents a share, versus $11.3m, or 27 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

It added total sales fell 7.1 per cent to $330.5m from $355.9m while same-store sales plunged 9.3 per cent.

If those trends continue it says same-store sales for the second quarter will be in the negative, mid-single digit range, which would lead to a loss for the quarter. The firm plans to close 16 unprofitable stores this year.

"Our results were adversely impacted by the lack of expense leverage on negative comparable store sales and the additional markdowns necessary to manage our inventory," noted Michael Fisher, president and CEO.

"With sales continuing substantially below plan, inventory management has taken on even greater importance and our aggressive efforts have controlled inventories to appropriate levels and freshness."