Children's shoe firm Stride Rite Corp on Thursday announced a 17 per cent jump in first quarter net profit to $8.8 million from $7.5m in the year-ago period as it was boosted by sales of Keds footwear.

The Massachusetts-based company, whose other brands include Sperry Top-Sider, Grasshoppers and Munchkin, said sales rose eight per cent to $152.3m from $140.7m in the year prior, with Keds sales up seven per cent.

It added said same-store sales at company-owned outlets fell 6.2 per cent in the quarter although sales of Tommy Hilfiger footwear jumped 37 per cent and sales of Sperry Top-Sider were up 15 per cent, although international sales fell 23 per cent from last year.

Chairman and CEO, David Chamberlain, commented: "Overall, I am pleased with our first quarter financial results. The positive momentum from last year in both our Tommy Hilfiger footwear and Sperry Top-Sider brands carried into 2003 with double-digit sales increases.

"The Stride Rite Children's Group sales results were mixed. Our children's wholesale and retail businesses felt the effects of the economic slow down, weather, and the calendar change to a later Easter this year.

"Tommy Hilfiger children's products, which are now being developed and sold through our Children's Group, were a bright spot. Our international business had a difficult quarter, due in part to specific economic issues in certain countries."

He added: "Success in the second quarter will in large part be determined by the consumer take away and the reorders that generates for us. With the unsettled world situation and soft economy, it is difficult to forecast annual earnings.

"At this point, our guidance for annual earnings is a range of 60-64 cents per share, subject to the foregoing."