Apparel maker Oxford Industries Inc on Monday revealed a 44 per cent jump in first quarter net profit despite falling sales and forecast a significant rebound in full-year earnings due to "aggressive" inventory management.

The Georgia-based company, which produces clothing for leading brands including Nautica and Tommy Hilfiger, said net profit rose to $4.5 million, or 60 cents per share, from $3.1m, or 42 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Oxford said in a news release the 4.1 per cent slide in consolidated net sales to $172.1m from $179.5m in 2001 was expected and was primarily due to the discontinuation of the DKNY Kids business.

By segment, the firm said quarterly sales at Oxford Slacks slipped three per cent to $21.4m, 13 per cent to $47.2m at the Oxford Shirt Group and nine per cent to $36.8m at Lanier Clothes. However sales jumped seven per cent to $66.6m at Oxford Womenswear Group.

The Atlanta firm added for the second quarter it expects sales and profits to be higher than the year-ago period and for the full fiscal year sees a significant rebound in earnings on a moderate sales increase.

"We are gratified to see the dramatic improvement in our profitability in the first quarter," said chairman and president J Hicks Lanier. "Our efforts to aggressively manage inventory and improve sourcing have been key to our improving financial results."

"Significantly lower inventories have resulted in reduced markdowns. Better sourcing and more efficient manufacturing have led to a 210 basis point increase in our first quarter gross margins."