Sportswear manufacturer Kellwood Co on Thursday revealed a sharp rise in its fourth quarter net loss as sales fell around 13 per cent and added it was reviewing its sourcing and distribution infrastructure.

The firm, which produces the Kathie Lee collection for Wal-Mart, said its net loss reached $3.1 million, or 14 cents per share, compared with to a loss of $1.6m, or seven cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Total net sales fell from $540m to $470m, with women's sportswear sales down $56m, or 16 per cent, and men's sportswear volume down $13m, or 14 per cent.

For fiscal 2002, Kellwood said it sees sales of $2.1 billion and net earnings of $42-$44m, or $1.80-$1.90 per share, while for the first quarter expects sales to be down 20-22 per cent to $550m along with earnings of $12.5-$13.5m, or 53-58 cents per share.

Chairman, president and CEO ,Hal Upbin, said in a statement the company had taken "aggressive" steps to cut inventories and levels were down 28 per cent from a year ago.

He added: "The global market for piece goods and apparel production has changed significantly in favour of sourcing piece goods and finished product out of the Far East.

"At the same time, the downturn in the economy and consumer confidence has resulted in a prolonged period of weak consumer and retail demand which in turn has resulted in some excess capacity in our warehousing and distribution network.

"As a result, we are in the process of analysing our sourcing and distribution infrastructure along with other structural issues, and we will be considering actions to align it to reflect the new business environment."

He continued: "The company would rather be in a position to have to chase the business, or even pass on taking an order, than be caught with excess inventory until we are convinced that the consumer is ready to return to spending their disposable income on apparel."